For 71 years, the stately mansion on Duluth’s London Road prompted passerby’s to crane their necks, taking in Glensheen until the very last moment she slipped out of sight. So when the 39-room mansion opened its doors as a museum in 1979, the response was enthusiastic.
This was the first time most Duluthians had been allowed inside the Congdon estate. Sure, they’d heard the name before. Chester Congdon was the richest man in Minnesota when he died in 1916, after making a fortune in iron ore land speculation, copper mines, and orchards. They’d also been riveted by the murders of the mansion’s last resident, Congdon’s daughter Elisabeth and her nurse, Velma Pietila, just two years earlier.
So it may have been the notoriety that drew them to 3300 London Road, but it’s the majesty of the estate that continues to draw people 34 years later. In fact, more than 2-million people have toured Glensheen, a department of UMD’s School of Fine Arts, since it opened its doors on July 28, 1979.
The longevity of Glensheen’s appeal can be attributed to its authenticity. It’s one of few historic house museums in the country with the original collection intact. From the tiny details, like the letters in a desk drawer, to the significant, like the still working call system, Glensheen is an incredible slice of turn-of-the-last century opulence.
This summer marks Glensheen’s 34th year as a historic house museum. In appreciation, the estate is hosting a Community Day on Friday, May 24, 2013. Free standard house tours will be offered all day. The ticket house opens at 9 a.m. and the first tour begins at 9:30 a.m. The last tour is scheduled for 4 p.m. but Glensheen’s tour manager recommends arriving early, as the limited number of tickets sometimes run out.
Beyond the tour, Community Day also features kite flying demonstrations and kites for sale in the Glensheen museum shop, book signing by “Secrets of the Congdon Mansion” author Joe Kimball, and an events open house in the winter garden that showcases Glensheen’s premier caterers, Savories and Black Woods.
More information about Community Day and Glensheen can be found on Glensheen’s website, glensheen.org or by calling (218) 726-8910.
A Look Back: The Birth of a Museum
July 28, 1979: Long lines in Glensheen's parking lot on opening day
1979: A press conference in Glensheen's carriage house
July 28, 1979: Glensheen's first visitors enjoying the Congdons' carriage collection
If you go:
Glensheen's Community Day
Friday, May 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
glensheen.org or (218) 726-8910 for more information
Story written by Lori C. Melton, email@example.com