February 1, 1909: Construction of Glensheen mansion completed

Glensheen photographed in 1909. (Image: Glensheen Historic Estate)

On this day in Duluth in 1909, Glensheen construction supervisor John Bush jotted down this notation in his diary: “end of house work.” Chester and Clara Congdon’s grand home between London Road and Lake Superior was complete, four years after it began. The estate was designed by Clarence Johnston, who designed an Edwardian manor that would have looked right at home in the English countryside. Glensheen’s Jacobean Revival design mimics aspects of buildings from the late English Renaissance (circa 1603 to 1650; some consider Glensheen’s design Jacobethan Revival—a specialized topic best left to architectural historians). Not only was the style a then-current architectural trend, but it reflected Clara and Chester’s English heritage. The total cost for the estate came to $864,000—more than $22 million today. When complete, the estate included the main house, a cottage for the gardener, four greenhouses, vegetable and flower gardens, a formal garden complete with pool and fountain, a carriage house, a tennis court, a bowling lawn, a boathouse and pier, and two trail systems, one of which led along Tischer Creek above London Road to a chalet, the reservoir, and an apple orchard. The house also held modern amenities, such as a central heating, humidification, and vacuuming systems. Glensheen was rigged with both gas and electric lighting, a common practice at the time; delivery of electricity was still unreliable. The University of Minnesota Duluth has administered the estate since 1977, following the death of Elisabeth Congdon, Chester and Clara’s last surviving child.

3 Responses to February 1, 1909: Construction of Glensheen mansion completed

  1. Tim, UMD and UM are the same university- my diploma from the UMD campus says “University of Minnesota” and does not mention Duluth.

  2. Is the estate left to UMD or University of Minnesota? I recall a couple months ago there was a banner on the fence showing only the big “M” for U of M, then more recently a new one was made where it has the big “M” but also the Bulldog symbol. Or is it just that the U of M oversees UMD, or is it because a big “M” will bring more visitors from the cities?

  3. Very anxious to see your new book of 100 photographs…I am guessing even I have not seen all of those photographs.


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