February 1, 1909: Construction of Glensheen mansion completed 

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. Architect Clarence Johnston 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). 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, a vegetable garden and a flower garden, 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 up 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. Learn more about the mansion and its construction here. Historic Glensheen, 1905–1930 by Zenith City press includes over 100 photographs of Glenheen’s first twenty-five years, including images of its construction. You can preview the book here. And check out the official guide to Glensheen, also published by Zenith City Press, here.

The front façade of the main house of Glensheen, Duluth’s historic Congdon family estate, photographed ca. 1910. (Image: Glensheen Historic Estate)

Archive Dive: The Pioneer Breweries of the Twin Ports

This week we dive into the archive to pull up some history on the pioneer brewers of Duluth and Superior. Brewing began in both communities in 1859, providing both a potent potable and jobs, as at the time the entire Head of the Lakes was struggling financially in the wake of the Panic of 1857.…