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What should I do about these stairs?

We are getting ready to replace the carpet on the main staircase and second floor of our 1898 foursquare home, and I'm not sure how best to handle the stairs (second floor needs to remain carpeted because wood floors underneath are in poor shape). We are planning to move in the next couple of years, so I don't want to invest a huge amount of money (but I do want to make a smart choice for resale). The staircase is a prominent feature and I have hated the look of carpeted stairs since the moment I saw the house:

I was hoping to refinish the wood underneath, but today I found out that the previous owner glued plywood to the existing treads before carpeting (WHY????):

So...what are my options? Carpet will probably be the cheapest option, but I just think it destroys the elegance of this staircase (which sadly is one of the only original features remaining in this house). Is there a way to get the plywood off without ruining the original treads? IMO even painting them and adding a runner would look better than full carpet. Any other options? Appreciate your advice - thanks in advance!

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