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Acros our State

Congdon Castle one of many unusual sites in Washington state

There are many wonderful and unusual places to see and visit in Washington state. I've written before about Sam Hill and Maryhill-a story of vision and ingenuity in an era of expansion.

There's a similar story closer to home. Out on Nob Hill Boulevard in Yakima stands the Congdon Castle with its adjoining orchards, vineyards and row crops. Who, when, and why is there a castle in Yakima?

Chester Adgate Congdon was born on June 12, 1853 in Rochester, New York. He attended Syracuse University and read law in a Syracuse, New York firm until admitted to the bar in 1877. In 1879 he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota and began a law practice. In 1881 he married Clara Hesperia, who was from San Francisco. They had seven children.

In 1892 the family moved to Duluth, where in addition to law, Chester became involved in the development of nearby iron and copper mines. He was general counsel to the firm that consolidated into U.S. Steel, vice-president of the American Exchange National Bank, and on the boards of many enterprises, including the Marshall-Wells Hardware Company.

In 1905 the family home "Glensheen" was built on the shores of Lake Superior. It was a 39-room mansion that enjoyed electricity, hot water and irrigated grounds. Soon after moving into the home in 1908, Chester was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. He stayed active in Republican politics for the rest of his life.

Congdon was also intrigued by railroad development. The story we were told was that on one of his railroad journeys through the west, he got off the train in Yakima and fell in love with the area. He recognized its agricultural potential and soon bought land to the west of the town.

From 1912 to 1915 that land was put into irrigated orchards and vineyards; barns and a bunkhouse were built. An 80-room stone house with a swimming pool in the basement was also constructed. A tree-lined driveway swept up to the home. Imported tiles lined the entryway. Windows opened on opposite sides to catch the breeze. A screened-in dining area shaded by the trees allowed cool summer meals. Many steps lead up to a turret-like observation deck where there is a 360-degree view of the countryside and the mountains.

Congdon visited his Yakima farm often. But he died November 21, 1916, just a year after the house was completed. Clara lived in Duluth until she died in 1950. A daughter, Marjorie, inherited Glensheen, which was given to the University of Minnesota after her murder.

Congdon's Castle in Yakima is still owned by the family, where they have family meetings from time to time. Those who have been in the beautiful old home are indeed fortunate. They are carried back into an experience of life in an earlier era.

- Jerri Honeyford, wife of Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside), provides this column for local readers while she and her husband are in Olympia for the current legislative session.

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