Keeping it Fresh
for Visitors and Residents Alike
By Andrea Busche - Video by Joe Fairbanks
Glensheen Mansion, located at 3300 London Road in Duluth, is truly a sight to behold. Constructed in the Jacobean revival architectural style - a type of English Tudor - the house was built over the span of three years: from 1905 – 1908. Upon its completion, Glensheen became home to one of Minnesota’s, and certainly Duluth’s, wealthiest men – attorney and capitalist, Chester Congdon.
Although today it is known as a “historic house museum,” Glensheen was the private home to Chester and Clara Congdon and their family for many years, until it was donated to the University of Minnesota in 1979. The home is available year-round to the public for tours and other events.
While Glensheen has been a tourist destination for many decades, a primary goal of current leadership is to continue drawing in local residents, too. To accomplish this goal, there are many fresh initiatives at Glensheen, including outdoor concerts, dining adventures, hiking, a new bar, botanical gardens, and more – all to help remind native Duluthians of this amazing gem, located right in our own backyard.
Not Just for Grandmas!
Glensheen features 27,000 square feet of living space, a gardener’s cottage, a boathouse, and many stunning gardens - all set on twelve gorgeous acres. “Glensheen is a 12-acre estate on the shore of Lake Superior. It’s the nicest piece of property on the Lake in Duluth,” said Dan Hartman, Glensheen’s Director.
It also contains many beautiful and interesting antiques, which were privately owned and used by the Congdons while they lived in the home. “We are fortunate that more than 95% of the collection is from the family and most is from when the house was built over a hundred years ago,” Hartman said.
With all of these amazing amenities to see and explore, Glensheen has never had trouble attracting tourists. But many Duluthians believe that if they’ve visited once, they’ve seen it all.
“There’s something built into the brand of House Museums that make them sound immediately - like something for your grandmother,” Hartman admitted. “But we are trying to fight back on that notion – this is an amazing place, and I’m excited for us at Glensheen to continue to find new ways to flip that idea on people.”
Food and Drink
To achieve this goal, Hartman and his crew have plenty of ideas. Primarily, they include leveraging Glensheen’s amazing grounds.
Nestled between Tischer Creek, Bent Brook, and Lake Superior, Glensheen is an amazing place to simply hang out. Their Concerts on the Pier series, where visitors can chill on the Lake’s edge while enjoying a local beer and listening to live tunes, is a fun, newer initiative which is very popular.
Hartman also revealed plans to open a bar on-site, to be called Shark on the Lake. And, “Chef in the Garden,” an event where local chefs pluck and cook up fresh produce right from Glensheen’s grounds, is about as farm-to-table as it gets.
Flora and Fauna
If music and beer aren’t your speed, perhaps the flora and fauna will draw you in. Currently, the French and English-style gardens on Glensheen’s grounds feature a wide variety of plants, featuring many local varietals, but a bit of global-inspired greenery, too, such as Japanese and Chinese Lilac. But Hartman hopes to add even more.
“Chester Congdon gave land to the City to create Congdon Park,” Hartman said. “My vision is to someday bring back the old hiking trail that was on both sides of Tischer Creek and have it directly connect to Congdon Park. That way, the community of Duluth could go right into the park and be able to hike to the mouth of the Tischer Creek, right on the property of Glensheen.”
“The second phase would be to create a botanical garden,” he added. “So, when people walk that trail, there would be a wide variety of flora and fauna that we would maintain and plant. Maybe a stand of lady slippers, and some yellow orchids. Just a wide variety of northern climate flowers and plants that we would ID and tag – it would feel like a botanical space that is open to the public to enjoy and be educated by.”
Other initiatives, perhaps appealing more to Glensheen traditionalists (or your grandmother), will include a “New Spaces Tour”. This guided journey will offer access to previously-unseen nooks within Glensheen, such as Clara’s balcony, the carriage house attic, and the boathouse.
While Hartman gladly welcomes tourists, and is grateful for their continued patronage of Glensheen, he also has a direct message to share with his fellow Duluthians:
“This is your space – this is your community space,” he said. “It used to be owned by the wealthiest family in Duluth, if not Minnesota, and now it’s yours. Come and enjoy it.”
Please note: visiting hours and new initiatives are all dependent on the progression of COVID-19, so please be sure to call or check the Glensheen website prior to your visit.