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Historic Knight Library: Art & Architecture

Guide to the art and architecture of the 1937 historic Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene.


The Paulson Reading Room, which is the reading room serving users of the Special Collections & University Archives collections, was originally the Upper Division Reading Room of the historic portion of Knight Library. The interior of the room was designed by the Ellis Lawrence architectural firm to feature the carved wood panels Oregon Vistas (east wall and west wall) and the companion piece Release of Youth from Depression Conditions  (east wall and west wall). In 2006 the room was named for the Paulson Investment Company which gave a gift of $1,000,000 to support Special Collections & University Archives.

Works of art in this room: Oregon Vistas Triptych (east wall); Oregon Vistas Triptych (west wall); Release of Youth from Depression Conditions (east wall); Release of Youth from Depression Conditions (west wall).

Upper Division Reading Room.
Source: UO Special Collections & University Archives.

Paulson Reading Room, 2014.

Paulson Reading Room, 1937. WPA photo.

Paulson Reading Room, ceiling detail

The Paulson Reading Room was designed by the Ellis Lawrence architectural firm with the focal points being the carved wood panels Oregon Vistas on the east and west walls.

Special features:

  • Seven tall windows provide northern light for reading. Three of the windows are doors to balconies on the exterior of the north facade.
  • The high ceilings are decorated with acoustical tile.  The lighting fixtures were designed by Frederick A. Baker.
  • This plaster frieze in Art Deco style was designed by Ellis F. Lawrence. Its design elements suggest mountains, trees, and crosses.
  • Placed on the walls at each end of the room are two large carved cedar panels, each 30 in. x  8 ft. The panels, Oregon Vistas, were designed by the Grey Gypsy Craftsmen: Art Clough, designer and master carver; Ross McClure, carver; and Jim de Broekert, apprentice. The first panel set was funded by the federal Public Works of Art Project in 1934.  The later panels were commissioned by the WPA and finished in 1936.  Sets of carvings at the bottom of the larger panels, entitled, are usually considered as part of the larger triptych or tri-panel work.
  • A small room adjacent to the reading room was original designed to house rare books and the map collection.

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Douglass, Matthew Hale. The University of Oregon Library Building. 1937.

Evans, Lew. "Art Work in New Library Product of Delicate Work by Grads and Professors." Oregon Daily Emerald, May 19, 1937.  The article mentions the wood carvings by Arthur Clough and the Gypsy Craftsmen in the Upper Division Reading Room.

Emerson, Kim, "University of Oregon Library and Memorial Quadrangle," National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, August 15, 1989.

"The Library," Ellis Lawrence Building Survey. v.2 (Eugene). Compiled by the Historic Preservation Program, School of Architecture and Allied Arts, University of Oregon ; project directors, Michael Shellenbarger, Kimberly Lakin. [Salem, Or.] : State Historic Preservation Office, [1989].

“Paulson Investment Company, Inc. Gives $1 Million to University of Oregon; Library Special Collections Commemorates Gift by Naming the Paulson Reading Room.” Businesswire. May 23, 2006. Web.