Your guide to a guide-free experience at Glensheen

Beca Livermont
Jul 1 · 8 min read

Hi there, I’m Beca! I am a former tour guide and current Student Creative Coordinator at Glensheen.

If you haven’t been to Glensheen in the last few years-or months, really- you’ll probably notice some pretty major changes that have been made this past year. Most notably, the introduction of the General Admission tour.

This is a fully self-guided tour that’s been implemented year round as a way to make Glensheen more accessible to a wider audience. Rather than spending an hour in the house with a guide and then going on your merry way, guests are now free to explore the main levels of the home at any pace they’d like.

This makes Glensheen a much more accommodating place for a variety of audiences, from families with young children to people with disabilities, and even for those who are simply on a tight vacation schedule.

This seems to be a pretty drastic change from the way things were run at Glensheen previously. I won’t lie, as a tour guide it freaked me out quite a bit when I first heard about it. But since this change has been implemented, touring Glensheen is easier and more accessible than ever, and it makes return visits to our beloved mansion on the lake much more interesting.

So, as a former tour guide, I’m here to tell (or rather, show) you everything you can do on a general admission tour the next time you visit Glensheen. But first, here are the essentials for optimizing your time at Glensheen:

Grab a visitor guide from the gift shop

These are great, and not just because I designed them! They’ll give you a map of both the mansion and the grounds, along with recommendations for photo spots and other cool places on the property.

Follow the blue line

You’ll hear it over and over again, but the blue line truly will be your best friend during your time at Glensheen. It leads you from the ticket house to the gift shop, and from the gift shop straight to the front door.

Download the app

This is another great new feature, designed specifically for the general admission tour. The Glensheen app gives you pretty much all the same information you would get with a tour guide, through written material and audio.

PRO TIP: Download the app in the gift shop BEFORE heading up to the house. Turns out concrete walls and wifi don’t get along quite as well as we’d hoped.

Ok, now that you know what to look for, here are some of the things you can now do on a General Admission tour, whether it’s your first time at the ‘Sheen or your twentieth:

Put yourself in the Congdon’s shoes

Being able to explore the house without a guide lets you to better imagine what it would be like to live in Glensheen. As long as you don’t climb the ropes and sit in the original furniture, the mansion is your oyster!

Check out the family photos

The Congdons, just like any other family, had tons of family photos and portraits, including some pretty goofy ones.

Look for all the symbols

If you’ve been to Glensheen, you probably remember three things: pineapples, the Breakfast room, and lions. The lions are stationed strategically around the mansion as a reminder of just how powerful the Congdons were, and the pineapples symbolize welcome and hospitality. I guess the Congdons wanted to make sure their guests were comfortable, but not TOO comfortable.

Stare at the windows

Yes, Glensheen has some killer views, but the windows themselves don’t get enough credit. Glensheen’s art glass is truly spectacular, and now you can stop and stare at them without holding up a tour. ALSO, the windows on the main staircase have recently been restored, so they’re in tip-top shape again!

Learn more about the house

As a guide, I found that some guests really enjoyed looking at the nitty gritty details like blue prints and ledgers, but the time constraints of a guided tour rarely allowed for time with these materials. With general admission, you’re free to spend more time checking out the details of this place and asking the staff questions about what interests you.

Check out the (sometimes creepy) artwork

The Congdons loved their artwork. There are tons of pieces on display throughout the home, and with general admission you can spend more time checking out each and every piece. This includes The Two Companions, which depicts a little girl whose eyes follow you.

Spooky!

Count all the Erickson paintings

While we’re on the subject of the home’s artwork, David Erickson is impossible to leave out. He’s a Duluth artist whose work is featured prominently around town, including at Glensheen. I always tell my guests to try and find all of the Erickson pieces, because they’re everywhere.

Check out the craftsmanship

A lot of thought was put into Glensheen’s design. From hand-carved woodwork to specially blown glass, no details were spared in the design of the home. My favorite element is the detailing around the fireplace in Helen’s room.

Take some sick mirror selfies

When you tag us on social media or post using #glensheen you’re automatically eligible to win FREE specialty tour tickets, plus how often do you get to take bathroom selfies with subway tile and marble accent?

What about hand-carved oak?

Make new friends

You may notice Edgar here is missing an eye. Please don’t ask him about it, we don’t know where it is and he’s kind of self-conscious.

Spend more time in your favorite room

Maybe it’s the Breakfast room, maybe it’s a bedroom (mine’s the library), but whatever it is you can spend as much time in it as you want!

See new (old) things!

This spring we installed a refurbished double oven range from approximately 1900. It’s not the same stove that the Congdons had, but it’s much closer than the 1980s oven previously in place. We’ve also removed the old museum rug in the lower level of the house and restored the original floors. Yay, a new (old) stove! New (old) floors! So much to see!

See. The. Grounds.

Ask any Glensheen staffer what the best part of the place is, and the answer will almost always be the grounds. Something about them is magical, I’m telling you.

A fan favorite is the stone arch bridge, which can be found along with the other grounds highlights using your handy dandy visitor guide.

Check out the gardens

Look at that terrace view. Does that not look like it was made for one of Jay Gatsby’s parties? FUN FACT: Clarence Johnston, Glensheen’s architect, also designed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s house in St. Paul, so really when you think about it Glensheen= The Great Gatsby.

Make MORE friends!

While we’re on the topic of gardens, keep an eye out for Glensheen’s Assistant Head Gardener, Zulu. He’s super handsome and very helpful.

Finish up at the lake

Spending some time taking in the magnificent Lake Superior is the absolute best way to cap off your visit at Glensheen. Look at Rachel, she loves the lake! Everyone loves the lake! Dare I say, it’s a great lake!

I found this giant piece of beach glass within TWO MINUTES of being by the water. The lake has some good finds, guys.

So there you have it, a comprehensive list of all the great things to do and see on the general admission tour!

To purchase General Admission tickets, click here.

See you soon!

The Glensheen Collection

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

Thanks to Jane Pederson and Amanda Denton

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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