Amazing Staircase Series: The Nathanial Russell House

The Nathanial Russell House(1808) in historic Charleston, SC features two of the most noted curved staircases in the world. The two curved staircases are "freestanding" (no supporting walls beneath the stairs) and rise from the first floor to the 3rd floor in a counter-clockwise direction offering a continuous handrail on the left hand side as you ascend. The stair construction is notable in that there are no structural stringers (main support members) used. Each tread and riser section are fastened to a framed box made from Southern Yellow Pine, and each box is offset (cantilevered) and bolted to the box beneath it; the top and bottom box are bolted the either floor. . Beneath the joined frame boxes, another curved frame member is attached so that there is a place to attach the lath and plaster to the backside of the stair. The sides of this framing were then covered with plaster and painted to resemble stringers. Restoration work was undertaken in 1955 and the staircases had sagged up to 4" in the centers. The plaster backing was removed in an attempt to tighten up the framing, but both stairs ended up being bolted into the walls via metal brackets to hold them up. The handrail is also a curiosity to modern stair designers as the sides of the rail are made from a bendable trim piece and the top is cut from many short sections that are pieced together to create the curve. The design is elliptical in nature and not built to a radius. The finished line of these stairs are evidence of near perfect geometry and the flow is one of the best I have seen. In spite of the unusual construction, these truly are amazing stairs. See more Amazing Stairs!
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