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A staircase design for the ages: The elliptical steps at the Nathaniel Russell House

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Charleston, North Carolina, is home to some of the most interesting historical landmarks in the country. As one of the first major ports in the original 13 colonies, many of the buildings in this city predate even the signing of the Declaration of Independance.

However, the Nathaniel Russell House is considered by many architects to be a key example of quintessentially American design. The most striking feature of this house, the structure that brings thousands of tourists to this mansion-turned-museum, is the central staircase that weaves its way up all three floors.

Made out of striking dark mahogany, this staircase is one of the main reasons this home was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Built in 1809, Russell, a successful merchant from Rhode Island, paid a small fortune to construct this Southern refuge.

The staircase is elliptical, giving it a graceful look as it rises throughout the property's main core.
With rich white plaster and an ornate cornice framing the bottom side of the staircase, the structure cascades through the house like a milky waterfall.

Despite the technically intricate shape of the stairs, the individual pieces that make it a whole are all relatively simple. The balusters are basic cylinders placed evenly throughout the length of the banister, while the handrail itself is a gracefully thin carved piece of mahogany that coils at the end where the steps meet the landing.

This design has been replicated throughout the East Coast and around the world in classically styled mansions and more modest residences alike.


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