Red Hen House in Brooten offers place to slow down and regenerate

Barbara Lent completely refurbished the Red Hen House, a retreat center drawing people from all over the United States to Brooten.

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
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After trying twice to get rid of a former church building, Barbara Lent accepted the fact that she was meant to keep it. During a quilt hop weekend she attended with four friends, the vision for the project developed and by the end of the weekend, the Red Hen House in Brooten had been birthed.

The building was originally constructed in 1891 for Our Saviour’s Lutheran, which closed in the fall of 1998. Prior to Lent’s purchase, the steeple had been removed.

“I bought the building in 1999, and remodeled it to use as a photography studio,” said Lent. “At that time the roof was replaced, the bell tower removed and the roof capped, interior stairs were put in and rooms were partitioned in the basement.”

After selling it contract for deed in 2004, Lent got it back when the buyers walked away from it. “I then rented it to someone with an option to buy, and one month before the option deadline in 2007, they walked away,” she said.

“Then I thought, ‘OK, God — I’m supposed to have it. What do you want me to do with it?” said Lent.

“I knew it had to be more than a cozy place for my friends; I had to make a business of it,” Lent said. “I had been to enough retreats to know what was required for electricity, lighting and accommodations.

“All along the way there have been divine interventions. The people and things I needed were always in my path when I needed them,” she said.

“When I needed a plumber and didn’t know one, a friend referred me to someone who was immediately available,” said Lent.

For the second renovation, all windows were replaced, new siding was installed, another bathroom was added, downstairs flooring was replaced and downstairs rooms were redesigned to be bedrooms. Forty-five gallons of paint were used for the interior of the entire building.

“It’s been a fun journey,” said Lent. “When you attract the right people, you know you’re doing things right.”

“In the four years the Red Hen House has been open, some people have been here five or six times on different retreats. They come for quilting, scrapbooking, card making and baby showers,” Lent said.

“In May, there will be a book signing with Sunny Dawn Johnston for her new book ‘Invoking the Archangels,’” said Lent. “And the second weekend in July we will again be hosting an art show and sale as part of Bonanza Valley Days.”

Mary Jane Schmitz, who has also refurbished an old vacant building in downtown Brooten, said, “The biggest benefit of the Red Hen House to Brooten is the way the building was preserved. And the business is drawing people to town.”

Lent said, “People enjoy the fact that all linens are provided. The kitchen is fully equipped; retreaters just need to bring their own food.”

In the last two years, Lent has donated a weekend retreat as a prize for The Quilt Minnesota Shop Hop. “It’s a 12-day-long event in August every year when participating quilt shops have special promotions and events,” said Lent. “There is even a line of fabric designed every year specifically for the shops that participate.” Seventy-five shops from across Minnesota will be in the Shop Hop this year.

Lent said, “I am grateful that, though the economy is struggling, people still use some of their discretionary income to come here.

“People have come to stay from as far away as Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Virginia and Maryland,” said Lent. “There was a Red Hat group who came for a tour and a snack. There was also a men’s a cappella singing group performing in town who stayed here. They were the first ‘roosters.’”

A Twin Cities-based magazine recently offered Lent space in its April insert on spas and retreat centers. “The readership is 10,000,” she said.

“One of the things we as a society don’t do is to slow down. If we would take the time to regenerate, it would make our lives better,” said Lent. “This is a good place to do that.”

Anyone wanting to know more about a stay at the Red Hen House can call Lent at (320) 424-0232, or check online at, where the availability calendar is current.

Until further notice, one free night’s stay will be included with every weekend reservation.

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