Beach exercise

Beach exercise

Friday, August 26, 2016

Glensheen Historic Estate

The Glensheen Estate is located on the north edge of Duluth on route 61.  It was built by Chester Adgate Congdon as his family home.  Construction started in 1905 and was completed in 1908 at a cost of over 850, 000 dollars, which would be over 20 million today.   Congdon was  one of the great capitalists of the earlier 1900's. Much of his early wealth came from very fortunate investments in the stock market.

The mansion and grounds are well worth touring for the sheer luxury and beauty displayed.  What makes it more interesting to many is the tragic history that comes in the last year any family member lived there.

In 1908, Congdon, his wife and his seven children moved into the 39 room home. Mr. Congdon died in 1916.  The last Congdon to live in the home was  Elisabeth Congdon, who never married but who had adopted two girls.  In 1968, the estate was given to the university of Minnesota Duluth with the provision that Elisabeth Congdon could reside there until her death.  Her death is what has made the estate a unique place.  On June 27, 1977 she and her nurse Velma Pietila were murdered.  Elisabeth in her bedroom by suffocation . Velma was beat to death with a candlestick in the stairwell. Her adopted daughter, Marjorie, had a troubled history and it was thought that she and her second husband had been pressing Elisabeth for money. Her husband, Roger Caldwell, was convicted for the murders and received two life sentences.  Marjorie was charged with aiding and abetting but was never convicted.   She continued to have problems and spent a number of years in prison on other charges.  In 1982, Caldwell's conviction was overturned by the state supreme court and a retrial was planned. Caldwell then pleaded guilty and signed a full confession. He was later released and committed suicide in 1988.

Your entrance ticket is a 1900's style calling card which you present to the butler at the front door. All of the tour guides are students of the university and dress in period clothing and are very knowledgeable about the home. Even though the gift shop sells books written about the murders, they are not allowed to discuss the murders during the tour.  It is certainly one of the best mansion tours we have had in a long time.


Main floor

Servants dining room

During the peak years the kitchen prepared meals for 20 people everyday.

Sun room where breakfast was usually taken and often other meals during nice weather.
 The main dining room was used regualry for entertaining.

Second floor

Female guest room


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Two state parks

There are two state parks along route 61 that we had on our list of places to visit.  The first was Split Rock Lighthouse with its important history and commanding view of Lake Superior. In the great storm of 1905, 29 ships sank or were severely damaged in this area of the lake. In 1910, the Split Rock Lighthouse went into service. For the first 20 years, the station was only accessible by boat and the ship keepers and families lived at the station during the shipping season and then left for the winter months.

In 1924, the road was extended north and by 1930 the light keepers could live on site fulltime. Soon the lighthouse became a popular attraction.  We elected to take a guided tour of the site (no extra charge) and then explore on our own afterwards.  The tour included lots of history of the lighthouse construction and the light keepers who manned it.  This light station has some of the best housing I have seen at any lighthouse and I can understand why they chose to remain on site year around.  Today, two park managers live in the houses.

Gooseberry State Park is also very popular. as we found out in our first attempt to visit.  We were luckier on our second try and it was not nearly as busy.  The park is well known for the cascading multiple falls and wide gorge the river flows thru.  There are hiking trails and other amenities in the park including a campground.  Based on our experience, reservations are definitely needed to stay in the campground.  We were a bit surprised that the falls were not overflowing with all the rain in the previous week before our arrival.  But the reduced flow allowed us to get out on the river bed for a closer view.