Glensheen Mansion

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Although brought to notoriety by the Congdon murders, Glensheen Mansion represents a significant period of Minnesota's history - the iron range boom. During this period a great deal of the ore used in WWII came out of Duluth's port, and fortunes that were made in the steel business developed northern Minnesota and helped build a way of life at mansions like Glensheen, which stands open to the public as a reminder of this now-vanished era.
~David Bornus, Shoreview, MN

The Glensheen Mansion has been a part of Minnesota for many years. Many people have toured it and it is one of Minnesota's biggest mansions that is a museum.
~Ingrid Larson, Lake Elmo, MN

Glensheen, located on Lake Superior in Duluth, MN, stands today as one of the grandest homes in Minnesota. Constructed for mining entrepreneur Chester Congdon and family between 1905 and 1908 at a then staggering $850,000, Glensheen represents a truly lost way of life that existed at the turn of 20th-century Minnesota. Congdon, who made the majority of his wealth off of the discovery of iron ore in Northern Minnesota, envisioned an estate of enormous magnitude. Presently sitting on about seven acres of prime Lake Superior lakeshore, Glensheen consists of the main thirty-nine-room mansion and various outer buildings including a gardener's cottage, a carriage house, a boat house, and informal and formal garden areas.

At a time when Duluth boasted more millionaires (per capita) than any other city in the world, Glensheen represented Minnesota grandeur and wealth on a magnificent scale. For design and construction, the Congdons obtained the talents of several noted Minnesotans. Minnesota State Architect Clarence Johnston conceived and designed the estate buildings; noted interior designer William A. French of St. Paul designed most interior spaces, providing custom-made furnishings that were shipped up by the boxcar to Duluth's premier address. Noted Minnesota Arts and Crafts designer John Scott Bradstreet personally designed Glensheen's renowned 'Breakfast Room' as well as most spaces on the mansion's third floor (Glensheen's Bradstreet items are one of the finest Arts & Crafts collections presently in Minnesota). Glensheen's interior incorporates imported rugs, fireplaces faced with marble quarried throughout the world, ceilings of gold leaf and imported hand-carved plaster, and hand-carved walls of oak, mahogany and walnut. Noted U.S. manufacturers include the Rookwook Pottery Company, the Grueby Faience Company, the Linden Glass Company, and the Quezal Art Glass Company.

What I believe makes Glensheen such a wonderful Minnesota treasure is that the home is essentially identical to the way it was when the family moved into it in November, 1909. Every item original to Glensheen is STILL there! Unlike the James J. Hill house in St. Paul (which was emptied of its original items and now stands empty as a cavernous cave), Glensheen still represents the warmth and comfort that was afforded to the Congdons nearly one hundred years ago. Not only are there hundreds of notes and correspondences between the Congdons and their construction/design staff, there are also photographs, receipts, surplus building materials, and personal family items. Amazingly, Glensheen's carriage house still houses all the Congdon carriages, sleighs, and buggies.

In 1968, the Congdon heirs donated Glensheen to the University of Minnesota. Their insight was to preserve Glensheen and use it for "public pursuits which might not otherwise be available because of growing pressure to budget demands upon public and educational institutions". Since 1979, Glensheen has been open to the public for all to enjoy and experience. Presently, over two million visitors have experienced a visit to Glensheen. Minnesotans are incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderful asset to enjoy and appreciate - Glensheen truly represents a great part of Minnesota history!
~Robert Moore, Edina, MN


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