Hidden Glensheen

Duluth’s Glensheen Mansion, the former home of the family of Chester and Clara Congdon, is a majestic and impressive historical mansion. However, most people don’t have the opportunity or the time to see all the little details that really show off all of the splendor and the unexpected reminders of the very real family who lived in Glensheen Mansion.

Here is the Congdon Family on a picnic. I love this photo for its awkwardness. I can almost hear the photographer saying something like, ‘Okay, everyone, please just hold still one more time. This really should be the last one!’

In this photo You can see Chester on the far right. Presumably, the three daughters are also here (mostly, we only have photos of the daughters as children or as older adults, but few photos in between). Clara is the one with the most excellent hat. And other than Chester, the only other likely male that we know would be there would have been Robert, who would have been 12.

This photographic collection is organized floor by floor, from the basement to the attic. On each floor’s page, you will find additional pages for each room of the mansion.

This project is the result of a long-term and close collaboration with Glensheen staff, especially tour guide Jaron Reif and Collections Manager Milissa Brooks-Ojibway. Their time and enthusiasm have been invaluable, and I owe them a great debt of gratitude.

Milissa and Jaron were instrumental in this project!

Thank you, Milissa and Jaron!

From a photographic perspective, this project presented a number of significant challenges. Glensheen Mansion is poorly lit, and flash wasn’t an option. All available light came from relatively dim lighting fixtures, and from windows. This resulted in a lot of high contrast and difficult-to-photograph scenes. Light from the windows would often glare off reflective surfaces, and so we were constantly finding ourselves going back and forth between not having enough light, and trying to block the incoming light to prevent glare. Most images required a tripod, long exposure times, and a lot of patience!

The goal of this project is to show off aspects of the Glensheen collection that the public doesn’t usually have the opportunity to see. In some rooms, the treasures we found were extensive, and in others, there were very few. In either case, please enjoy this rare opportunity to see the curtain pulled back – to experience the Hidden Glensheen.

Glensheen's Basement

Click HERE to visit the basement of Hidden Glensheen

Glensheen's First Floor

Click HERE to visit the first floor of Hidden Glensheen

Glensheen's Second Floor

Click HERE to visit the second floor of Hidden Glensheen

Glensheen's Third Floor

Click HERE to visit the third floor of Hidden Glensheen

Glensheen's Attic

Click HERE to visit the attic of Hidden Glensheen

Beyond the Mansion

Click HERE to visit the grounds of Hidden Glensheen

Special Collections

Click HERE to visit the special collections of Hidden Glensheen


  1. Is this the mansion that is supposedly haunted? I would be interested in finding information on the history of this family and mansion.

  2. Hi Karen. I’ve spent five months in close collaboration with staff, and we’ve been (literally!) in every nook and cranny. I haven’t heard or seen anything to make me think Glensheen is haunted.

    1. Thank you Lynn! I’ve had several requests for a book! My author friends who have published books have warned me to be very careful before proceeding down that path, but I am considering it.

    1. Hi Karen! You better believe it! Here’s the link:

      The thing about the gardener’s cottage is that it was used as a residence (by the Wyness family, Glensheen’s gardeners for many years) up until fairly recently. It doesn’t have the same magnificence of the rest of Congdon Mansion, since the family was updating the cottage as they lived in it (as most homeowners will do). Today, the main floor is used as a ‘ready room’ for bridal parties and planners, the upstairs is used as office space for Glensheen staff, and the basement is used by the grounds staff.

  3. Beautiful work! I loved looking through all the images. I was a small child when my grandmother first took me to Glensheen, and I’ve always wanted to see more and investigate. Thank you for giving us a deeper look into the mansion.
    I was just curious if there were any hidden rooms or hidden passage ways inside the mansion? It would be amazing to be able to x-ray the walls and see if there is anything hidden inside.

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