Campus Heritage Marker
University of Minnesota Duluth
Glensheen, A Family Legacy
Glensheen estate was built between 1905 and 1908 for attorney Chester Adgate Congdon, his wife Clara Bannister Congdon and their children. The original 22 acre-plot featured rugged terrain with a stream that cut through dense woods to an underdeveloped, yet gently sloping shoreline. The Congdons recognized the promising beauty of the Lake Superior property, and measurements for a formal estate began as early as 1903.
Chester Congdon met Clara Bannister at Syracuse University where they were both members of the first graduating class. After a seven-year engagement, Chester, who was practicing law in St. Paul, Minnesota, married Clara and they established a family which would eventually grow to include four boys and three girls.
Chester moved the family to Duluth at a time when mining turned men into millionaires. Through astute observation during his tenure as a lawyer to Henry Oliver, Chester learned the mining business, and made his fortune through land speculation and mining in northern Minnesota and Arizona. He also owned apple orchards in Yakima, Washington, where Chester built another impressive house called Westhome.
Today, Glensheen closely resembles the way it looked when the Congdon family moved in on November 24, 1908. The majority of the furnishings are original to the time the estate was first occupied, and in 1991, the home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Designed by noted Minnesota architect Clarence Johnston, the 39-room mansion suggests a 17th-century English country estate. Surrounded by formal gardens, the manor house is located near the center of the property and features the distinctive windows, gables, doorways and chimneys associated with Jacobean Revival architecture.
The estate included a carriage house, a bowling green, a boat house, a clay tennis court and a gardener's cottage. The estate produced its own fruits, vegetables and dairy products, and milk cows once grazed where visitors now park their cars. Dismantled in 1971, a series of four greenhouses once lined the east drive.
In 1969, Glensheen was given to the University of Minnesota Duluth by the heirs of Chester and Clara Congdon. The goal was to preserve Glensheen and use it for "public pursuits which might not otherwise be available because of growing pressure to budget demands upon public and educational institutions."
On July 28, 1979, the estate opened to the public as a museum. Since then, millions of people have visited Glensheen. In addition to tours, Glensheen hosts weddings, receptions, meetings, and dinners. Glensheen is also used as a teaching resource by UMD faculty, offering opportunities for historical research and studies in museum operations and administration.