A modern marvel, then and now
Mansion-building was almost a science when Glensheen was constructed. Chester Congdon would read up on the latest features and techniques and incorporate many into the original plans for the house, according to Dennis Lamkin, head of the Glenshee...
Mansion-building was almost a science when Glensheen was constructed. Chester Congdon would read up on the latest features and techniques and incorporate many into the original plans for the house, according to Dennis Lamkin, head of the Glensheen Citizens Advisory Council.
Built to last
* Glensheen's framing is of steel beams, typically used in office buildings but not in houses.
* The mansion was built with firebrick (above), similar to concrete block, creating walls 12 to 16 inches thick.
* The floors on each level are poured concrete and, in most cases, topped with hardwood.
* Construction techniques allow the house to expand, contract and shift with minimal structural damage.
* The original coal boiler, now with part of the chamber converted to gas, is still used to heat the estate's water.
* Glensheen experts say the home was built to withstand an earthquake.
* The house was equipped with a central vacuuming system with lengthy hoses that turned out to be too heavy for the maids to use, so male servants took on the task of vacuum-cleaning.
* An intercom system provided contact between rooms in the main house and the stable and gardener's cottage.
* With a constant stream of hot water through the house, a line of pipes under the sink in the butler's pantry allowed food to be kept warm before serving.
* Showers, which were for the Congdon men more than the women, sport nine- and 13-shower heads for over-all showering.
* All of the toilets in the house use warm water to flush and have no tanks. This was done to keep condensation from forming during the summer.
* Bathtubs have no faucets. The tubs fill through an opening flap near the bottom of the tub so there will be little or no sound as a tub is filling.
* Although the house has hot-water radiator heat, most of the radiators are recessed or otherwise disguised so they're not noticeable.
* A laundry-drying system allowed laundry to be hung and dried in compartments with a gas heat. A mangle, with heated rollers, was used to press laundry.
* Closets have windows for ventilation, a reflection of the era's new awareness and fear of germs.
* Glensheen was the first private residence in Duluth built with electric wiring. Light fixtures also were equipped with gas jets.
* A tunnel connects the chauffeur's residence to the garage.
* One light switch turns on 20 night lights throughout the house. They were installed so if Chester Congdon returned home late, he could make his way through the house and even get a snack in the kitchen.
* Snaps affixed to the floor keep runners and carpets from sliding.
* The estate used up to 100 tons of coal each year. To avoid noisy coal deliveries, manholes were created along London Road to auger-feed coal to the mansion.
* The guest coat closet has a ventilation feature that allows a guest's coat to warm in the winter or dry if it's raining.
* Although automobiles were just coming onto the scene in 1908 when Glensheen was built, the garage was equipped with a mechanic's pit for changing oil and easy servicing.
* Water for use on the grounds was diverted from Tischer Creek into a 60,000-gallon reservoir located between Superior Street and London Road and is still in use today.