The Glensheen Mansion
The historic Glensheen Mansion, along London Road in Duluth MN, was built for Chester Congdon and his family. Chester Congdon went from being a school teacher in Wisconsin to being the wealthiest Minnesotan at the time of his death in 1916, worth 40 million dollars. When Congdon came to the boomtown known as Duluth in 1892, he entered law practice and became a key figure in iron mining and banking. He was also the US Attorney of Minnesota.
The construction of the great Glensheen Mansion began in 1905 and was completed in 1908. He chose the name Glensheen, meaning “shining glen”, and was named for Chester’s ancestral home in Surrey, England. The 39 room Jacobean mansion was the most affluent home in Duluth at the time, and is considered so today. The beauty and style is unsurpassed. It was the first home in the area to have electricity and running hot water. There was a 60,000 gallon holding tank for irrigation to the grounds and vegetable gardens.
As you tour the grounds, you will see the Congdons lived a lifestyle unknown to most. A concrete and wood boathouse sits along the shore of Lake Superior, and it was the only one known to exist in those days. There is also the carriage house, gardener’s cottage, servants' quarters, many winding paths, and gardens that look very much the same as they did in the early 1900’s. The Congdon’s were known for their extravagant parties on the well groomed lawns at the Glensheen Mansion.
Sadly, Chester spent only eight years in his home, passing away from a heart attack in 1916. His wife, Clara, and their children remained in the home for a period of time, but the upkeep was difficult. The final resident of the home was Elisabeth Manning Congdon, who was born in 1894. She inherited the family fortune; and though she was single her whole life, she adopted a daughter, Marjorie Congdon. Marjorie had many problems and was diagnosed as a sociopath early in her life.
Then, on June 27th, 1977, the unthinkable happened. 83 year old Elisabeth, and her night nurse, Velma Peitila, were murdered in the Glensheen Mansion. Marjorie Congdon had married Roger Caldwell, and they planned to break into the mansion. Roger did just that, and then beat the night nurse to death with a large candlestick. He then smothered Elisabeth, the youngest child of Chester. Roger was charged and convicted of the horrendous crimes. Though Marjorie was tried for aiding and abetting Roger, she was acquitted. She then moved to Arizona and later was charged with fraud and arson in 1992.
Popular Tourist Spot
The beautiful Glensheen Mansion was marred by sadness. It was willed by the family to the University of Minnesota Duluth. It first opened for tours in the summer of 1979, and has been a main tourist attraction ever since. It’s open every day in the summer and early fall, but only on weekends in the offseason. The double murder is a drawing card for some tourists, but they are spoken of rarely and only in passing by tour guides, in order to honor the Congdon family.
The Glensheen Mansion offers various holiday brunches throughout the year, along with special musical events. The gardens are overflowing with colorful blooms, so even a walk along the grounds is worth the trip. A little known fact is that a movie was filmed in and around the Glensheen Mansion in 1972. It starred Patty Duke, and was titled “You’ll Like My Mother”, a psychological thriller. It seems a bit eerie since it was filmed before the murders.
If you want to take yourself back in time, Glensheen, the historic Congdon Estate, awaits you.
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