Glensheen is a 32,000 Sq. ft mansion that sits on a 22-acre estate on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth Minnesota. It was built by well-known entrepreneurs and activists Clara and Chester Congdon. Today we are going to highlight the Reception Room.

The Reception Room would have been the first room that visitors to Glensheen saw. Back then when you wanted to visit someone you would bring a calling card. This card said who you were, who you were hoping to see, and what your business was. The calling card would be handed to the butler who would let you in, take your coat, and seat you in the reception room. This was the room where you would wait for the Butler to return, either with the person you requested or a message telling you when the best time to reach them would be.

Because the Reception Room is the first room guests will see it is known for it’s extravagant beauty and high quality decor to show the status of the family. The Congdon’s Reception Room lived up to this standard. The ceiling of the Reception Room is finished in gold leaf. From the gold ceiling hangs down a beautiful light fixture made by the famous E. F. Caldwell Company. The woodwork and furniture that is in the Reception Room is made from Circassian walnut that is native to the southwest region of Russia by the Black Sea. Today this wood is still highly sought after to be made into gun stocks.

One of the Congdon’s most frequent past times was traveling the world. The family went on trips to Europe, Africa, New Zealand, and other places. On many of their trips they would end up buying an entire set of luggage to bring home their new-found treasures. Many of these artifacts from around the world would be placed in the Reception Room. In the Reception Room is a Tophane Pottery teacup and saucer set. It is a distinctive red clay from Turkey, called Tophane pottery. Tophane is a district of Istanbul where the red clay originates from.

Within the reception room there is also a Cloisonne vase. The MET defines Cloisonne as “metal vessels with colored-glass paste placed within enclosures made of copper or bronze wires, which have been bent or hammered into the desired pattern.” Our Collections Manager Milissa Brooks-Ojibway believes this small vase to be of the Japanese Meiji period. (The Meiji period began in 1868 and would last until 1912. It was marked by the fall of Tokugawa shogunate, the military government of Japan. The new emperor Meiji brought radical political and social changes propelling Japan to modernity. This tumultuous and uncertain time of progressive change is reflected in much of the art created during this period).

Tiny vase

The last artifact we would like to highlight is the Japanese satsuma-style incense burner. Chester purchased this on one of his trips to Egypt. While the burner was being shipped to Glensheen it broke. A note inside reveals that Clara was able to fix it.


The Reception Room was always a comfortable temperature so that winter guests could warm up. Today the reception room is also home to a cabinet filled with souvenir spoons from the Congdon’s many travels. It is fun to think that souvenir spoons existed even over 100 years ago.

This blog was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to amazing things in Glensheen. To learn more about Glensheen and get tickets for a tour head to

Glensheen seated between vibrantly green trees with a bright blue sky in the background.