An Authentic Experience

In a world full of manufactured experiences, we have very few opportunities to fully immerse ourselves in authenticity. Glensheen offers one of those rare chances.

Come see why Glensheen Mansion, perched on the shore of Lake Superior, is the most visited historic home in Minnesota. Our 12-acre estate features gardens, bridges, and the famous 39-room mansion built with remarkable 20th century craftsmanship, telling the story of the Duluth region.

“Loved the tour and the estate is fabulous. There were so many details to the home that I need to see it again.”

The Congdons

A Family Affair

Chester and Clara Congdon built Glensheen between 1905 and 1908 as their home. This influential family is known for opening up iron mining in this region and setting aside land for public use, such as the North Shore Scenic Highway and Congdon Park.

Glensheen was donated to the University of Minnesota and opened as a historic house museum in 1979 and, here’s the amazing part: the collection is intact. The top hat in the closet? That was Chester Congdon’s. The letters in the desk drawer? Those were written by Clara. The sheets in the linen closet? Organized by the Congdons’ 2nd-floor maid nearly 100 years ago. And that’s just inside the mansion… Keep scrolling to find out more!

“The estate is beautiful living history lesson, from the original furniture and portraits of previous inhabitants to the immaculate grounds and gardens.”

The Landscape

Natural Beauty

The Congdon estate originally included 22 acres of lakeshore property. At the time, the area was heavily wooded and the shoreline was rugged, yet the Congdons saw the potential for a gracious, formal estate and practical home for a busy family with six children.

Charles Wellford Leavitt, Jr. was a civil and landscape engineer with offices in New York City. As the landscape architect of Glensheen, Charles was directed by the Congdons to preserve as much of the natural beauty of the property as possible. He was also charged with making the estate self-sufficient, which required plans for a large vegetable garden, a greenhouse, an orchard, a cow barn and a water reservoir.

“This was the first time I had ever heard of the [Congdon] Estate. It was so amazing! I can't even imagine living there, it is so beautiful.”

Tunnel Fed Utilities

So that the landscaping would not be marred, all utilities came into the mansion, the carriage house, the boathouse, and the gardener’s cottage underground. The water, gas, and power lines were run through a tunnel from London Road.

Mining

Glensheen exists because of the Northland’s Iron Range. The mineral-rich region was coveted by notorious businessman John D. Rockefeller. Chester Congdon convinced his client, the Oliver Mining Company, to align itself with Rockefeller’s rival, Andrew Carnegie. Eventually the entire industry consolidated into U.S. Steel —making the investors, Chester included, very wealthy.

Tischer Creek

Water used for the grounds was diverted from Tischer Creek into a 60,000-gallon reservoir located between Superior Street and London Road, which is still in use today.

The Pier

The pier on the estate was the largest private pier on Lake Superior and the only one shown on navigational maps of the lake.

The Mansion

A Place to Call Home

“I will have quiet neighbours,” Clara Congdon wrote in her diary, referring to the cemetery to the west of Glensheen. Nestled between Tischer Creek, Bent Brook, and Lake Superior, Chester and Clara Congdon envisioned a home that would serve as a calming refuge for their family for generations to come. 3300 London Road, Glensheen’s address, was considered far-removed in 1905, the year construction began. By 1908, after three years and nine months, Glensheen was completed by transforming the heavily wooded area into an efficient yet magnificent estate.

By all accounts this conversion was not an easy task. The Congdons, the architect Clarence H. Johnston, the landscape architect Charles W. Leavitt, and the interior designer William A. French collaborated on the project. Glensheen is a testament to the skills and craftsmanship available more than 100 years ago.

“Loved the tour and the estate is fabulous. There were so many details to the home that I need to see it again.”

Cost

It cost the Congdons $854,000 to build Glensheen.

The Space

Glensheen’s main house has 39 rooms and covers 27,000 square feet of living space.

Reservoir

A water reservoir was developed to supply the estate. This reservoir was gravity-operated and it was used for the fountain with enough pressure to propel the water almost 75 feet in the air. It is no longer in use.

Made to Last

The ceilings are 16 inches thick and they contain large hollow tiles made of a fire retardant material.

  • “This is a must see for anyone visiting Duluth.”

    Arthur M ~ Trip Advisor

  • “I would definitely go there again - very interesting and the tour guides were very knowledgeable.”

    Drew C ~ Trip Advisor

  • “I had been on a tour when I was a young girl and thought it would be fun to go again as an adult. We had a most excellent guide, Wes.”

    Lori M ~ Trip Advisor

  • “We did the basic tour and will be back to see more! The exterior is pretty, but the interior and the back story are incredible!”

    Shawna T ~ Trip Advisor

  • “This is a beautiful structure that inspires thoughts of past luxuries. Reading about this famous site before visiting will enhance your experience.”

    Tracy E ~ Trip Advisor