15 Mar After Dark: Glensheen Mansion Flashlight Tour
Large, historic mansions have always intrigued me, especially when they have a storied history full of opulence and mystery. The Glensheen Mansion, located right on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota, is no exception.
I have visited the mansion a couple of times over the years, and it is fascinating—so fascinating in fact, that after my tours I couldn’t resist reading several books about the house and family. This time around, Micah and I were visiting the mansion as part of TBEX, a travel blogging conference, and we were in for quite the treat. Our evening was spent exploring the mansion in complete darkness save for the light of our guide’s flashlight. It was both chilling and captivating all in one.
The Glensheen Flashlight Tour is not meant to be spooky, but rather is set up to highlight the unique details of the house in a different light. But, let’s face it—exploring a 100+ year old mansion in the dark is sure to send a few chills down your spine! There may or may not have been some questions about ghosts from our crew, but our main focus of the evening was learning about the Congdon family and details of the mansion. We were also supposed to have a bonfire to start the evening, but unfortunately the off and on rainy weather wouldn’t let that happen. Instead, we lucked out and were able to take a look at the house during the daylight hours, as well, so it all worked out quite nicely in the end.
First, we wandered outside and explored the 12 acre property grounds—we walked by the creek, the pier on Lake Superior, and around the outside of the house. Then, it was time to head inside for a look at the Glensheen during the last remaining hour of daylight. Every time I visit, I am pleasantly surprised to see and learn something new.
Chester and Clara Congdon started building the Glensheen Mansion in the early 1900’s and construction was completed in 1908. The Congdons are known for their influence in starting iron mining in the region and setting land aside for public use, such as parks and scenic highways. The main house of the mansion covers 27,000 square feet and has 39 rooms—it cost the Congdon’s $854,000 to build, and this was over 100 years ago! Amazing, isn’t’ it?
After our glance at the house in the daylight, we waited for the sun to set and then ventured back into the house for our Flashlight Tour. This tour takes you through four floors of the mansion, and as it is usually a seasonal tour offered in the winter, it typically ends with a winter bonfire on the shores of Lake Superior.
The appearance of the house changed drastically in just a couple of hours—seeing the details in the light, and then again in the darkness really made certain elements stand out. The design work put into the mansion is exquisite, and being able to focus on different elements with only the light of a flashlight really made the complexity and uniqueness of the house shine.
Some of my favorite areas that we toured were the library, the previously closed third floor, the entertainment rooms, the laundry room, and surprisingly, the hallways. We looked at close up details of lamps, light fixtures, pieces of art, and woodwork. And we made our way through four floors of the mansion to see the servant’s quarters, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, and rooms that I don’t even have names for. This place is enormous!
There is so much to see inside the Glensheen Mansion that one visit simply isn’t enough. The Classic Tour is great for getting an overview of the house and a look at the lower level, first floor and second floor. Other tours offered are the Full Mansion Tour, Nooks and Crannies Tour, Servants Tour, Grounds Tour, Kayak Tour, Candlelight Christmas Tour, and of course, the Flashlight Tour. Some of these tours are seasonal and others are year-round, so whenever you visit, there is sure to be something interesting to see. In addition to the tours, there are also a wide range of events on the calendar, such as moonlight snowshoeing, unplugged music nights, classrooms in the garden, whiskey Wednesdays, and concerts on the pier.
We absolutely loved exploring this historic home by flashlight; it was an exciting evening filled with mystery, history, and beautiful design. The Glensheen Mansion is the most visited historic home in Minnesota, and I can see why. Even after several return visits, there is still more for me to see, and I most definitely have my eye on several more of the tours for our future trips to Duluth!