Since UMD opened the Glensheen estate to the public in 1979, the way it has been used has changed and evolved. Over the years, sometimes management has been so protective that guests had very few places they were allowed to see. Today, Glensheen has been opened up significantly, and because of that, more people than ever have the opportunity to really see the entire mansion. However, even with all of the newly available spaces, Glensheen just has so much stuff that it’s impossible for anyone to see it all.
The attic is interesting from a couple of standpoints. First, as you enter the attic and look up, you see that it’s all steel and concrete – there are no wood joists, which was unusual for a residential home, either 100 years ago, or today! The advantage to building like this is that Glensheen is very fire resistant.
The attic is open from one end of the mansion to the other:
Those rolls are various carpets and rugs that are in storage.
Looking up, the rafters look a lot like the rafters in my basement: lots of extra pieces of trim and molding, just in case:
Okay, I don’t have quite as much trip and molding as the Congdons have.
Off in each of the dormers is stored… lots of things. In this dormer, there are chairs galore:
But the nicer chairs are away from the sunlight that comes in, even up in the attic. This ornate chair is one example:
Here’s another easy chair that looks like it’s seen a bit of use:
Even the relatively simple chairs are fancier, and with more hand-carvings than you normally see on most furniture:
Have I mentioned that there are a lot of chairs stored in the attic??
This was tucked away (behind the chairs) – it looks like a little desk for a child to kneel at while playing:
Across from the kneeling desk, we found this large map of the state of the “Western Front of the Great World War, showing the battle line of liberty as it stood August 5th, 1918”:
This was a very large map – several feet high, and probably five feet from side to side:
If you recall from the library (and to a lesser degree, from Chester’s Den), the Congdons had a lot maps and information about World War One. Edward enlisted but never made it to the front lines. Despite not having any of their immediate family (other than two sons-in-law) serving in the war, the Congdons clearly paid very close attention to how it proceeded.
This was just a fun little find. It’s sort of like a TV tray, except one that you mount to the window of your car:
“It lets you laugh at the annoyance of inclement weather and the absence of comfortable picnic grounds.”
Before boxes were made from cardboard, they used thin planks of wood to ship things through the mail. We found a number of these wooden boxes, including this box that likely held fish, from Gloucester, Massachusetts. This is addressed to Mrs. Chester A. Congdon, 1509 E. Superior St. This would have been where the Congdons lived before Glensheen was completed:
Dobbins Electric Soap! I never did find out what made the soap ‘electric.’ In all the resources I was able to find, it was just part of the name.
Saleratus was a precursor to baking soda. It means ‘aerated salt,’ and was first made by suspending pearlash over vats of fermenting rum. This would absorb the carbon dioxide, and then it was sold, not just as a leavening agent, but also an ingredient in soap. However, saleratus made in the manner wasn’t consistently pure, and eventually Austin Church (half of the team that created Arm & Hammer) found another process to make baking soda, which is what we use today.
How about a big box full of ginger snaps?
“Guaranteed under the Food and Drugs Act of 1906.”
You may recall that Alfred was the family tinkerer. He built this star from old steel oil cans and wired it up with lights meant for an automobile’s interior:
Tucked way back in the dark and out of the way, we found this sweet old Corona typewriter:
This typewriter is much newer than the one we found in the Married Guest room, and it was in very good condition.
Yes, the Congdons were regular people – they too, have stacks of old National Geographic magazines. Shown here are magazines from between 1915 and 1925:
This book,”A Weird Region: New Zealand Wonderland,” could easily have gone overlooked on any of the many bookshelves downstairs, but it certainly caught our eye up in the attic:
There were stacks and stacks of various magazines, books and newspapers, and most of them were tucked far back behind lots of furniture, and in many cases, inside plastic bags. That said, we did find a few notables. This Harper’s Weekly from 1894 had compelling imagery:
Here is the quote at the bottom – A Warning From the Past: “There are combustibles in every state which a spark might set fire to… We ought not, therefore, to sleep nor to slumber. Vigilance in watching and vigor in acting is become, in my opinion, indispensably necessary.” – Extract from a letter of George Washington to General Henry Knox, December 26, 1786.
I love the advertisements in the back of old magazines. I was surprised and delighted to see several ads for bicycles and bike tires:
This was in a copy of ‘Duluth in Days Gone By,’ in the Duluth News-Tribune from 1956. The headlines are simply charming:
We found this book on a bookshelf at the far end of the attic. At the bottom of the cover, this book is described as being ‘Printed for private distribution only.’ It’s an interesting book to find in Chester’s collection, since he obviously had financial savvy:
We also found some interesting documents related to the creation of the Panama Canal:
I wasn’t able to find a definitive description of what Chester’s role in the Panama Canal might have been.
We found several of these Geologic Atlases, which were huge! Each was probably two feet wide and three feet tall. This one is from 1906, and shows “Indian Territory.” Of course, this territory was where the Cherokee were marched to, in what is now Oklahoma (from Tennessee), during the Trail of Tears:
We found this large flag (probably six feet tall) with 48 stars:
One of the finds that we all enjoyed were the camping supplies. It included these hand-made leather shoes:
I don’t know much about casting rods, but I know that a lot of people are appreciate seeing old fishing equipment:
These are leather gun cases that you’d attach to your saddle. As you can see, these have seen plenty of use;
As it turns out, the story’s not quite that straightforward. They were founded in the late 1800s as a high end hunting supplies retailer. They eventually declared bankruptcy in the 1970s. The name was purchased and sold until it was eventually sold to The Limited, which is where its focus changed significantly from its roots.
Of course, as with every room, there is much more that we could have shared, but this gives you a nice sense of the types of things that are stored in the attic. And with that, it’s time to head down to the basement!