On January 10, 1912, a Vassar student arrived at the Duluth Depot and was quickly whisked away to 3300 London Road. Dorothy Crawford was probably a bit taken aback by the biting wind off of Lake Superior, but after making it past the "imposing butler," she was soon enveloped in the warmth of Glensheen.
Dorothy came to Duluth to visit her classmate Helen Congdon. During her stay, she wrote letters to her family that beautifully illustrated her time at the historic Congdon estate. These letters were carefully saved by Dorothy’s granddaughter who shared them with Glensheen’s staff, and a new tour was born.
Offered weekends through January 5, the new holiday tour invites a self-guided exploration of the mansion where Crawford said, “I never felt more at home anywhere than here.” Glensheen tour guides, who are mostly UMD students, will bring the story to life in period costume. The backdrop includes more than 500 feet of garland, 15 Christmas trees, and a serving of holiday shortbread, authentically crafted from Clara Congdon’s original recipe.
Dan Hartman, interim director of Glensheen, says Crawford’s letters illuminate not only Glensheen’s history, but also that of the Zenith City’s. “The piece that really appealed to us about Dorothy Crawford's story is how she simply adored all the things about Duluth we do today. It's a great peek into 1912 during what's been called the Golden Era of Duluth.”
Glensheen’s intact collection encapsulates the Golden Era of Duluth, but letters written by Miss Crawford revive it, offering the most detailed account of daily life at Glensheen in existence. Here's a sample:
~Tonight Helen and I go out for dinner and meet Marjorie and Ned at the theatre where we are going to see the “Old Town” with Montgomery and Stone. Yesterday I went out to call on the Hartley girls, who gave the dance, and then went to tea at the Lelands, and friend of Helen’s. We went to the Orpheum, the high class Vaudeville house! Some of the show was very good. We went as guests of the Strykers. One of them is…a Wellesley girl and very little and spunky! A Mr. Steele came to dinner and in the afternoon we all went out coasting on Flexible Fliers down a frozen water slide. They don’t use Flexible Fliers here very much so I had quite a time showing off like an infant, down steep banks and on to the ice. We walked out on to the lake and marked out a circle in the snow and played “Fox and Geese.” When we got home I decided that I’d have to counteract my lack of dignity – so I swept down in my train for dinner.
~This dance was even more fun than the one at the Country Club…they did not have a supper intermission but we just went downstairs during a couple of dances and ordered what we pleased as it was given at the Hotel Spaulding. We had caviar sandwiches.
~Ned and I went for a long skate on the lake. It is well frozen over and has been for two weeks. We skated 2 ½ miles up to a suburb of Duluth called Lakeside and back, and then in the other direction. All together we must have skated seven miles.
~Right after dinner we went to the country club in the machines. I danced everything, extras and all …even the Omaha …quite well, as could Isabel and Julia thanks to our lessons. The room we danced in was decorated with lanterns strung across the ceiling, which was very low, and there was a nice open fire. The music was wonderful, too, in fact it was all quite perfect. The people here make a point of being nice to outsiders and went out of their way to be nice to us.
~Tobogganing party which one of the men got up in our honor: We all met at a drug store below the park where the slide is and walked up from there a mile or more. The slides are at the same place as the ski jump, a little bowl on top of the hill above the city and surrounded by very steep hillsides. When I got to the top of the slide my heart almost stopped beating. I got on the toboggan, gritted my teeth, shut my eyes tight and tried to pretend that I liked it. It was like dropping from the twelfth story to the first in an elevator. Before we got through I was crazy about it.
~I’ve never felt more at home anywhere than here, for even in spite of an imposing butler nothing could be more simple than the way the Congdons live and they take you right into the family. I already feel just like a member of the family here and it is the greatest fun. My heart fails me when I think of leaving here tomorrow night for never have I had such a perfect visit. I could weep at the thought of leaving this blessed place. Mr. Congdon has been away and I have been hoping he would get back before I left, I like him immensely.