Parks & Recreation

Congdon Park History


From Zenith: A Postcard Perspective of Historic Duluth, copyright © 2005, Zenith City Press, Duluth, Minnesota

The thirty-eight acres along Tischer Creek that make up Congdon Park were donated to the city in 1908 by mining attorney Chester Congdon and his wife Clara, who built Glensheen—Duluth’s most noted estate—further downstream where the Tischer empties into Lake Superior. Plans for the park were drawn up by the same men who spent years designing Glensheen’s gardens and landscaping: Anthony Morell and Arthur Nichols. (Morell and Nichols also laid out Lester Park, parts of Skyline Parkway, Morgan Park, Duluth’s Civic Center, and Duluth’s Central Park, which was never completed.) Congdon’s own staff executed the plan, creating gravel-covered trails, stone stairways, wooden bridges, and even a bridle path. Congdon accessed the park from Glensheen using a path beneath London Road.

The park rests between Superior Street and Vermilion Road and winds along the creek near Thirty-second Avenue East. A stairway leads down to trails within the deep walls that form the park’s boundaries. High cliffs of red rock, produced by lava roughly one billion years ago, show how much the creek has eroded the stone over the eons. White cedars appear to grow straight out of the cliffs (a trick of erosion), Norway pines and a variety of hardwood trees line the creek, and several waterfalls grace Tischer Creek, one forming a large swimming hole. The park fell into disrepair over time; trails became overgrown with brush, erosion created large gullies, and trail markings were lost. In 1971 and the following year the Duluth Junior League, along with the Department of Parks and Recreation, restored the park as a nature trail with the help of local Boy Scouts and UMD students.

Tischer Creek was central to Chester and Clara Congdon’s vision of Glensheen. According to family legend, the mansion was named for both Congdon’s ancestral home (Sheen, in Surrey, England) and for the way the sun shone on the waters of Tischer Creek. For years the Congdons had trouble keeping trespassers off the estate in the springtime during the smelt run, as many sought to harvest the tiny fish where they gathered to spawn at the mouths of Lake Superior north shore tributaries.

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