Congdon ParkChester Congdon's Naturally Beautiful Legacy
By: Rob Hedburg | October 16, 2018
The legacy of Chester Congdon, the original proprietor of Glensheen, is apparent in the many locations throughout Duluth that bear his name. Congdon Park, located between North Hawthorne Road and 34th Avenue East, stands as a testament to Congdon’s admiration for the outdoors. Congdon was a man of considerable wealth. He was an attorney by trade and became chief counsel for the Oliver Mining Company in 1892. Eventually, the Oliver Mining Company was bought out by American financier J.P. Morgan in order to eventually form U.S. Steel. As a result of this purchase, Congdon found himself one of the richest men in Duluth. Inspired by the expansion of the national park system under Theodore Roosevelt, Congdon sought to create a city park near Glensheen.
Tischer Creek flows freely through Congdon Park. The creek is named after Urs and Elizabeth Tischer, Swiss immigrants who settled much of the land surrounding it in the 1850s. Prior to Congdon Park’s creation, Tischer Creek was used as a sewer by
Woodland area houses, leading to the water being heavily contaminated. Part of Chester Congdon’s designs for Glensheen included extensive gardens which would be watered using Tischer Creek itself. The City of Duluth park board and Congdon official reached a deal in August of 1905 to redirect Woodland sewage into a holding tank, aiding in cleaning the water of Tischer Creek. On March 2, 1908, the park board officially named the land donated by Chester Congdon as “Congdon Park.”
By 1911, the majority of landscaping for Congdon Park was complete, with a twenty-foot roadway, an eight-foot bridle path, and a footpath along the stream’s edge. This footpath included stairs, bridges, and stepping stones. As the years went on, this footpath fell into disrepair. The largest restorative effort took place in 1972, when the Duluth Junior League, local Boy Scouts, and University of Minnesota Duluth students worked with the Department of Parks and Recreation to restore the nature trail. The flood of 2012 also caused some damage to the park due to the unusually high water levels on Tischer Creek. Thanks to restorative efforts throughout the years by numerous volunteer groups and the City of Duluth, Congdon Park remains one of the most picturesque parks in Duluth.
Congdon Park offers beauty in all four seasons. Pedestrians can easily access the walking trails to Congdon Park from Vermillion Road, East 4th Street, and East Superior Street. For more detailed information on the creation of Congdon Park, including competing bids for how the park was to be designed, be sure to check out Zenith City Online’s article. For information on visiting Congdon Park, be sure to visit this webpage from the city of Duluth. Make sure to explore one of Duluth’s prettiest parks on your next visit!