Glensheen Mansion's $3.5M restoration makes it look like it did back in 1910


The 2012 flood that devastated Duluth also created an opportunity to restore the historic Glensheen Mansion back to its glory days.

Flooding caused significant damage to the grounds, but that led to funding to restore the project, including from FEMA, Duluth tourism taxes and the museum's insurance, Northland's NewsCenter reports.

Using that money, crews have spent the past two years restoring the estate – the largest restoration project since it opened as a museum in 1979 – to show what the 39-room mansion looked like when the influential Congdon family moved in in 1908.

And on Thursday, the museum unveiled the $3.5 million restoration with before-and-after photos on the museum's blog.

"We really turned what would have been a tragedy for Glensheen really into a turning point for really transforming the future of Glensheen," mansion Director Dan Hartman told the Duluth News Tribune. "I hope ... in 20 years we can look back at that event as the event that started all this other rebuild."

The most noticeable difference is in the landscaping. Back in 2013, it was difficult to get a photo of the entire front of the home because of all the vegetation, which didn't match the 1907 master landscape plan, Hartman wrote on the blog.

The road leading up to the front of the home was redesigned, along with the Serpentine Wall and the Vermont granite staircase, Northland's NewsCenter reports.

Improvements to the handicap ramp, which didn't meet ADA requirements, were also made, along with fixing the basement, which would leak when the snow melted, among other repairs, the blog notes.

Interest in Glensheen's history remains

Attendance at the museum has been strong this summer after several years of decline, and that's thanks to new additions and features at the estate, the Star Tribune reported.

This summer, the museum opened a never-before-scene-by-the-public bedroom, and also planned numerous events, including concerts on the pier and kayaking trips.

And this month, there are "Shark Watching Society Bonfires" every Wednesday night, with the museum saying guests can enjoy a bonfire on the shore of Lake Superior while keeping "the waters of Lake Superior shark free."

Interest in the estate's infamous history also remains. In fact, the story of the the grisly 1977 murders of heiress Elisabeth Congdon and her night nurse is the subject of a play at St. Paul's History Theater this fall.

The performance is described as a "dark musical in the vein of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd that tackles this tale with wicked dialogue and incredibly moving songs. It’s the most bizarre mystery in Minnesota history!"

It runs from Oct. 3-25.

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40 years after filming, movie finally screens at Duluth's Glensheen mansion

The historic Glensheen mansion at the Congdon estate in Duluth had a special bonus for 75 visitors Wednesday: a first-time screening at the mansion of the movie "You'll Like My Mother." Starring Patty Duke as a pregnant war widow who travels to Northern Minnesota to meet her mother-in-law, the movie was shot at Glensheen in the winter of 1972. Visitors also had a chance to see various props from the movie.