An illuminating experience at Glensheen

If you could have lived in another era, when would it be? Me, I’d be in Boston, 1770s. Second place: Minnesota, early 1900s. So of course I savor Glensheen Mansion: every brick, window pane, light fixture and step (including the blood-stained ones!). Clara Congdon, the first lady of the home, fascinates me.

During our family camping trip to the North Shore, Cara and I had the opportunity to visit again, this time with sis-in-law Amy and niece Allie, who hadn’t been there before. I saw it through her fresh eyes.

Sorry, Clara Congdon, I left my dress, corsets and bonnet back at the campsite. But I LOVE your home!
Sorry, Clara Congdon, I left my dress, corsets and bonnet back at the campsite. I’ve heard you were very particular about ladies always wearing the latest formal attire. But I LOVE your home!

As Allie said as we waited for our tour to begin: “I like history. And murder.” I had started reading, “Will to Murder,” the most recent book about the 1977 murders at Glensheen on the drive up north, so our Cara had some sneak peeks at specific spots in the Mansion for Allie. And the book made me think of the mansion in new ways with its attention to details. We were ready!

fountain

Every inch of this amazing place is worth a photo. Most of all, it all feels so…. real. Because it is. The Christmas cactus in the breakfast room was Clara Congdon’s and still grows today! Chester Congdon’s top hat is still on its shelf in his closet!

Illuminating

Yet as always at historical spots, it is the lamps and lights that most intrigue me. They illuminate what life was like …

Chester's desk lamp. I can just see him here, poring over his law books.
Chester’s desk lamp. I can just see him here, poring over his law books.

 

Clara's "Paris by day, Paris by night" lamp in the living room, which has tiny dots to illuminate that lovely city at night.
Clara’s “Paris by day, Paris by night” lamp in the living room, which has tiny dots to illuminate that lovely city at night.
Lights in the ceilings even, Clara?! Cool.
Lights in the ceilings even, Clara?! Cool.

photo 2-1

Upstairs…

Yes, those blood stains are still on the window seat/landing area on the main steps to the second floor. No, I did not take a picture. That seemed unseemly. We all saw the dark marks, even though the tour guides won’t talk about the murders…until after the tour, and then only in answer to questions. Fair enough.

photo 2-2

Elisabeth's childhood room, overlooking Lake Superior and so beautifully feminine, serene and lovely. Just as I imagine her.
Elisabeth’s childhood room, overlooking Lake Superior and so beautifully feminine, serene and lovely. Just as I imagine her.
Elisabeth's Blooming Lamp; the "petals" fan out with the heat of the lamp. Lovely!
Elisabeth’s Blooming Lamp; the “petals” fan out with the heat of the lamp. Lovely!

More beautiful light fixtures in the bedrooms upstairs:

photo 1-3 photo 2-3 photo 3-2

Shadows on these lights

Inside the bedroom where Elisabeth was when she was murdered, the lights are hauntingly beautiful.

Notice the light on the wall, unlit...below it is lit from within.
Notice the light on the wall, unlit…below it is lit from within.

murder room 1

murder room 2
Ah, the things this poor pendant lamp has seen…

 On to brighter rooms!

My favorite Glensheen room is still the Breakfast room. Clara designed the entire home with her classy ingenuity, and it’s most evident here. The oak motif in the windows and fixtures. The incredible tiles and color scheme.

3homestyle0526

The fountain in the breakfast room, which brings water from the on-premis creek to this very room, and watered Clara's plants. It must work, her Christmas Cactus is still thriving in this very room!
The fountain in the breakfast room, which brings water from the on-premis creek to this very room, and watered Clara’s plants. It must work, her Christmas Cactus is still thriving in this very room!

The dining room also has her clever touch, with the button under the table to discreetly summon the butler during dinner. And the massive chandelier, which maids had to hand-polish (tedious, but so dramatically pretty in this room). Love you, Clara!

dining room 1 dining room 2 dining room 3

The distinctive billiards room, with lights on a pulley system that could be raised to improve the illumination of a certain shot on the table. Some say it was Chester’s idea. I know it was Clara: the longer she could keep the men entertained downstairs, the more time she had for finer arts (she was a gifted painter herself!) and entertaining the ladies upstairs.

photo 3-1 photo 4

Thanks for another visit to your home, Clara. You inspire me to live with serene grace, class and to shed illumination whenever I can.

The living room, where I love to picture Clara.
The living room, where I love to picture Clara.

 

 

 

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