Sara Galner's bowl on display in Glensheen mansion.
There are many whispers that float around the Glensheen mansion in Duluth, Minn. Behind the private doors of the preserved estate, pockets of history lay unearthed. But every so often, Glensheen reveals a bit yet to be explored; the most recent discovery has been a rare piece of pottery done by a group known as “The Saturday Evening Girls” or “SEG.”
|Sara Galner working in the studio of the Saturday Evening Girls.|
The bowl resides in Glensheen's Breakfast Room, where it is illuminated by the fresh sunlight that streams through the windows. The muted teal Rookwood Pottery walls encourage the natural greens to pronounce themselves from the body of the bowl. A specifically designed display was built to reflect the details of the bowl from the bottom and also highlight the hand-crafted images of people who line the circumference -- the presence of which are especially rare in the work of the SEG and of the piece’s artist, Sara Galner.
Galner’s work is well-known to SEG enthusiasts. The largest collection of her work is on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Formed in the beginning of the 20th century by Paul Revere Pottery (named for their location related to the historic figure in Boston, Mass.), the SEG consisted of young immigrant women who were taught practical skills that provided an income for their families.
The pottery, which was discovered in a cabinet, is in excellent condition. The artisan bowl holds more than just a place of honor at Glensheen -- it also holds historical significance. How and when the piece was procured by the Congdon family is not precisely known, but marks in periodicals hint that the line of ceramics was well-regarded by the family. The style of the bowl is also unique and uncharacteristic of the guild’s style, which invokes a question of whether or not the piece was specially commissioned for the Congdon family.
Arden Weaver, associate dean of the School of Fine Arts, and interim art director of Glensheen Historic Congdon Estate, said, “It’s our first time taking a piece of artwork and displaying it in the style of an art museum [at the mansion],” He continued, “We hope to be able to create more displays so we can share more of our discoveries.”
Weaver is already working with several of the great house’s other treasures and intends to share them will the public. Along with the pottery already on display, the diaries of the Congdon family are available online for viewing and reading.
Other artifacts within the Congdon family house on the Great Lake may be patiently waiting to be rediscovered. But for now, it is time for Paul Revere Pottery and the Saturday Evening Girls to take their place in the sun.
About Glensheen, the historic Congdon estate
Along the shore of Lake Superior, a 7.6-acre expanse of wooded land enfolds the 39-room Jacobean Revival mansion that is Minnesota’s premier historic site. The interiors of the mansion have endured, boasting nearly all of the same furnishings and décor that graced the rooms when estate was completed in 1908. Even the formal gardens and naturalistic landscape retain much of their original design. At Glensheen, visitors are given a look at life in an affluent family home from the turn of the last century. Glensheen is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Partner Place of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
From May 25-Oct. 21, 2012, Glensheen mansion is open daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm; first tour begins at 9:30 am and the last tour begins at 4 pm. Glensheen offers a number of summer events, many of which are free. For tickets or more information, visit the Glensheen website, email Glensheen, or call 218-726-8910.
Written by Jessica Coffin, June 2012
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