Go Beyond the Ropes- (But please, don’t step on the rugs)

Beca Livermont
Jul 10 · 7 min read

Hello again, Beca here! Student Creative Coordinator at Glensheen and former Tour Guide, here to tell you all you need to know for a Full Mansion Tour.

If you’ve visited Glensheen before, odds are it left some sort of impression on you. Maybe you left your heart in the breakfast room, or you’re still dreaming of taking in the home’s view of Lake Superior from the library. But perhaps as you toured, it felt like something was looming over your head (and up the stairs), just out of reach.

That’s right, I’m talking about the mysterious upper levels of the mansion. Well, they’ve been open for tours since the 90s, but still with limited access. So, with the purchase of a Full Mansion ticket, you’re free to check out the mansion’s third floor and attic, with a tour guide nonetheless! So if you’re still grieving the loss of guided tours on the main levels of the mansion, it might be time to consider a Full Mansion tour.

There is a lot to take in on this tour, even with a guide, if you don’t know what to expect. So, without further ado, here are some of the things to look forward to as you make your way through the mansion’s upper two levels on the Full Mansion Tour:

You’ll be going behind the ropes

Or rather, there simply won’t be ropes. Unlike the lower levels of the mansion, the stanchions have been removed on the third floor, making this an overall more interactive experience for guests. The third floor also lacks museum rug, so if you’re a fan of hardwood floors and original rugs, the Full Mansion is the tour for you!

Learn more about the Congdon men

If you’ve visited Glensheen with General Admission (or previously a Classic Tour), you probably learned quite a bit about the ladies of Glensheen. Perhaps you wondered about the other four boys that made up the Congdon/Bannister family tree. If that’s the case, the Full Mansion Tour has your answers! Four of the six (yes, SIX) bedrooms on the third floor belonged to the Congdon boys.

My favorite (yeah, I have favorites) is Alfred, Clara’s nephew, who lived with the Congdons after being orphaned. Alfred here sailed the family’s yacht from New York all the way to Duluth, and also lived on a boat at one point in his life. I’m sure he had some stories to tell in his day.

Look at him on that boat. So free. So happy.

Learn more about the family’s education

Did you know that all three Condgon sons went to Yale? You would if you went on a Full Mansion Tour, because the third floor is absolutely COVERED in memorabilia from their college days, including a map of Yale, a fraternity plague, and rugby keepsakes. It’s pretty hard to ignore.

See MORE artwork!

We like to call the third floor the artwork graveyard. Most of the works on display would not originally be here, but the Congdon’s art collection is so extensive that the third floor has become somewhat of a makeshift gallery over time.

See the goats!

GOATS, not GHOSTS

So these guys aren’t exactly the Belle of the ball. A tour guide once addressed these taxidermied goats by saying “They’re not the greatest things you’ve seen in your life…” and then walked away. We like to say that today’s taxidermy is much more efficient, but we really have no way to be sure of that.

BONUS: If you’re really, truly interested, you can find goat-related items on the first, second, and third floors of the house: the wall coverings in the living room are made of dyed goat wool, the doll in Helen’s room has golden locks made of 100% goat hair, and then we have these guys. Weird flex, but ok.

(Dangerously) Cool fireplaces

Despite the fact that the central heating system was built into Glensheen’s original design, the house still has plenty of fireplaces, mainly to add to the ambiance of the rooms. Some of the coolest fireplaces in the house are on the third floor.

This being said, some of these fireplaces are arguably also the most dangerous. If you look closely in Edward and Walter’s rooms, you’ll see two of the biggest fire hazards on the estate: hidden gun cabinets located right next to the fireplaces.

Tour guide lore states that when these spaces were initially discovered by the University, there was still gun powder residue in at least one of the cabinets.

Who doesn’t love to keep their loaded firearms next to an open flame?

See some original rugs!

Like I said before, we don’t have museum rug on the third floor, meaning all the rugs you see belonged to the family. This one was originally in the Amusement room, but is being stored in the guest room because our Collections Manager is currently in the process of having it recreated (hence the fabric swatch).

We’ve also got a BUNCH of original rugs in storage for preservation purposes in the attic.

Speaking of, on the Full Mansion tour, you also get to…

TOUR THE ATTIC

The thought may seem underwhelming, but trust me on this. The attic, along with being absolutely ginormous, is also the best way to showcase the mansion’s structural integrity. It’s the only place in the house where the steel I-beam frame is exposed or where you can see the terra cotta builders’ tile that makes up the inside of the mansion walls.

Don’t worry, the ones that are actually inside the walls are in much better shape than this one.

You can also see some of the estate’s design elements up close, like the Rookwood tiles used to furnish the breakfast room or the glazed stomp-brick used in the carriage house floors.

Get the best of both worlds

This is a partially guided tour, so you’ll be getting some face to face time with a tour guide, but once the Full Mansion portion is done you’re free to roam the rest of the house on General Admission, meaning you get the perks of starting with a guided tour and the freedom of finishing it at your own pace.

Also, don’t be alarmed if you see Kyle or one of his buddies. Our security team likes to check up on the tours to make sure everything is going smoothly.

So there you have it folks, a bunch of stuff to look forward to on your next Full Mansion Tour at Glensheen!

Fair warning, spots fill up quickly on this tour, so be sure to purchase your tickets here before your visit!

For more ways to explore the upper levels and learn more about tours (my favorite is the Flashlight Tour), visit our tour page.

The Glensheen Collection

Anything and Everything related to Glensheen, the historic Congdon Estate. ~Duluth, MN

Thanks to Jane Pederson

Beca Livermont

Written by

Student Creative Coordinator at Glensheen Mansion, Graphic Design & Marketing major at UMD and lover of beach glass

The Glensheen Collection

Anything and Everything related to Glensheen, the historic Congdon Estate. ~Duluth, MN

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