Grounds

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Before the Wyness family came along to become the permanent gardeners for the Congdons, things had gotten a bit overgrown at the Glensheen Grounds. Here’s an old photo of the grounds, from the house – you couldn’t see the lake at all:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

It may be hard to tell in this photo, but today things are much more orderly and well-groomed:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

You can also see the fountain in both photos. Here’s a close up of the detail of the dolphins at the base, after the fountain had been drained before winter:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

The fountain was actually the third that the Congdons had installed, and was carved by a young stonemason from Norway, named George Thrana. If there were a single person who embodied the artistic stonework of Duluth, Thrana would be that person. If you have seen a particularly beautiful building in Duluth, odds are, you have seen his work. His work can be seen at Denfeld High School, Old Central High School, the Board of Trade Building, the Duluth City Hall, the Kitchi Gammi Club, several churches, a number of private residences, and many more. If you wanted high quality stonework, Thrana was your man.

The Glensheen Boathouse was probably one of the biggest mysteries that I looked forward to digging into. Here, at the door to the boathouse, you can see the stairs leading up to the roof.

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

The stairs are pretty sketchy and moss-covered, but once you get to the top, you have a pretty sweet view of the mansion:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

Of course, you can also see that the roof of the boathouse is overgrown with moss and grasses, and the original brick surface is in tough shape.

Looking out at the lake from the roof of the boathouse, you can see that the pier ends with a short 90° turn, and you can see a steel structure immediately below:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

The steel structure was put into place to keep all of the rocks you can see from continuing to pile into the boathouse door. You’ll see why in a moment.

This next photo is of the pier in 1927. If you note the notch in the concrete, you can see how much further the pier used to go out, compared to how far it goes out today (comparing with the above photo):

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

The missing parts of the pier are now underwater. I went out in a kayak with a waterproof cover for my phone, and managed to get this next photo – here is where they missing parts of the pier are today:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

Apparently, years of pounding from the waves of Lake Superior were too much, even for such a well-constructed pier.

Inside the Boathouse, you can see the far back doorway (which is closest to Lake Superior) completely packed in with rocks:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

You can also see all sorts of debris and detritus. In the bit of water, there are drain hoses, a ladder and more. There are tiles and bricks along the edges of the boathouse. 

And machinery:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

Presumably, the machinery was there to help pull the Hesperia (the boat that the Congdons owned briefly, before it burned to the waterline in a refueling fire) out of the water in the wintertime. 

This next photo is of the water again. You can see a ladder, a plank from some scaffolding, lots of drainage hoses, and… something else. I’ve heard several people refer to this round object as a diving bell, but I’m not convinced:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

Here’s a closer look:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

I’ve looked up diving bells, and old boathouse equipment, and I can’t find anything that looks like this. Do YOU know what this might be?? If so, please leave a comment!

Leaving the mysteries of the boathouse, we come upon Clara’s painting shelter. After Chester died, Clara wanted a place where she could look out at Lake Superior and paint, and have a bit of protection from the wind and waves. This might be the first structure built at Glensheen after the original mansion was complete:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

I’ve already mentioned how the Congdons had directed a dammed and redirected water from Tischer Creek for gardening use at Glensheen, and this tap is one of many that carried water from Tischer Creek:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

This is an old photo of a steamroller (most people don’t think of steamrollers ‘steaming’ anymore!) smoothing asphalt in front of the mansion:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

I find this ironic – the above photo shows asphalt being laid down before the mansion was occupied. In other places, asphalt was laid down after the Congdons had left Glensheen. This brick pathway from the side door from the kitchen has aged over the years, and has been covered with asphalt:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

Obviously, this was a thin skim of asphalt, and hasn’t aged well. Since the tendency at Glensheen these days is to return conditions to their original state, I would guess that, whenever funding can be obtained, this walkway will return to a nice herringbone brick pattern.

I just like this photo because of the reflection:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

Here’s a fuller view:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

The little piece of land at the bottom left of the photo is worth noting. I’ll get back to that shortly.

This is a view that not many people will see – this is the balcony just outside Chester and Clara’s bedroom:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

Here’s another view from the balcony, and this is where we get back to that little piece of land. The smooth piece of grass below was apparently a bit of a haven for Chester. Chester was a busy man, involved in a lot of different businesses and activities. It must have been difficult for him to find time for himself. Because of that, he had this little piece of land set aside for him alone. He would take his cup of coffee and something to read down to this little clearing, and when Chester was there, everyone knew that he was not to be disturbed:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

Back then, the “traffic” of London Road would have been an occasional horse and carriage, and not much else. It would have been idyllic.

Sitting at Chester’s place of respite and looking upstream, we can see where Tischer Creek comes out under London Road.

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

We followed the tunnel through to the other side, but since we weren’t prepared to ford the river and climb the rapids, we turned back.

The other body of water that flows through Glensheen in Bent Brook. Bent Brook is a usually-quiet little flow of water, and the Congdons decided to contain its flow by creating cement and stone walls through the property. They also paved the creek bed, and according to several stories I’ve heard, they would set up card tables on the paved creek bed on particularly hot days, and let the waters cool their feet while they played cards:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

This is one of the light fixtures on the outside of the mansion. This one is just outside the Living Room on the main floor – note the artichoke finial at its base. 

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

Many of the exterior windows had these little screens to allow airflow:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

This architectural detail of the gutters has several names. I learned it as a scupper box, but it’s also called a conductor head, a collector box, or a leader head:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

This is one of the main style of exterior light fixture. It looks like a crown to me:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

A review of Glensheen’s grounds wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the lush gardens that have been a part of Glensheen, both when it was new, and today, under the excellent work of Glensheen’s gardeners:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

This ram’s-head planter has been on the grounds for years:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

Here you can see the original, extensive greenhouses that were once a part of the Glensheen estate. In the center, you can see the ram’s-head planter:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

The next few collections of images are more or less, loosely-related to the grounds at Glensheen. If I had to guess, most of these photographs were probably taken at Glensheen.

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

In the above photo of the Congdon Flower Garden, you can – again – see the ram’s head planter.

The photos of the drawbridge and of Congdon Park were not taken at Glensheen, but the photos of Ajax and the breaking waves were taken here:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

This is one of the gardener George Wyness’ sons, playing hockey on a frozen Tischer Creek, below the mansion:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

We’ll end this tour of the Grounds of Glensheen with a nice photo of the sun setting behind the estate:

Hidden Glensheen Photo of the Grounds of Glensheen by Bryan French Photography

We don’t have much left. The only things left are the few bits and pieces that didn’t fit cleanly in any other page.

Next: Special Collections (coming soon!)
Previous: Gardener’s Cottage

3 Comments

  1. I believe what is refered to as a diving bell, is actually a boiler. Not sure why a boiler would be there. Its to big to have been used for the Cogdens yacht that burned but it could be. Obviously I dont know what that one looked like. It could also be a pressure tank. Years ago wealthy estates like Glensheen had pumping engines that pumped air around their docks to keep them from freezing in the wintet time. Just a few suggestions

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