We found Hillman Retreat House in February of 2021, at the very beginning of our search for a lakeside property. The pandemic was just hitting its one year anniversary, and it was that late winter season when everyone in Minnesota starts getting restless for Spring. We were ripe for a project, and when we walked through this property for the first time, our eyes lit up.
Sitting on 14 acres of land and 800 feet of lakeshore stood two 7,000 square foot structures, with a large open field sitting between them.
The first, an 11 bedroom house, was built in 1925 as a home for the priest and seminarians of the church that sits in front of the property. Over the years it temporarily housed members of the community at times when they were building houses. We were blown away by the amount of indoor space and immediately saw the potential for a retreat house or vacation rental.
The second structure was built in the 1940’s as a youth recreation center. Over the years it was used for basketball, roller skating, bingo, weddings, and parties. Walking through it for the first time I could feel the energy of years of happy gatherings and great memories, and since buying it we’ve heard many stories from the community of past events and connections made in this space. Spouses who met roller skating and later got married in the same place. Church fundraisers and parties galore. There was something about the energy of this space that drew us in, and we wanted to be part of its next chapter.
While there were a lot of cosmetic improvements to make on the property, we saw the potential and wanted to revive these spaces so they could continue to be used for community gathering for years to come.
In the spring of 2021 we began our renovations, including pulling up all the old linoleum floors to reveal gorgeous douglas fir hardwood floors underneath. One of the big rooms on the second floor became the designated yoga room, and it’s my favorite room in the house. A row of east-facing windows overlooking the lake makes it a magical place for a morning yoga practice. An attached sunroom gives sweeping views of the property and is a wonderful place to sit and read, play cards, or watch a thunderstorm roll through.
Over the eighteen months of renovations we replaced half the windows in the house, upgraded the kitchen and bathrooms, and created a space that feels cozy and comfortable for large groups to spread out and gather both indoors and outside on the beautiful property.
There’s a smaller building between the house and the recreation center that we cleared out and screened in for a nice hangout spot in the summer. Next to that building is our firepit area with plenty of space for groups to gather and make s’mores. This spring we’ll install a brand new dock, and we have a collection of stand up paddleboards and canoes for folks to get out on the lake and explore.
Our kids have loved running around in the recreation center in the winter months, and that inspired us to set up a pickleball court for groups to use, which is especially nice when the weather isn’t cooperating for outdoor activities.
When I heard the theme of this issue is “evolve” I thought this was a fitting profile to feature. While the property has evolved quite a bit over its lifetime so far, the throughline I see is that it’s a space to gather and be in community with others. Whether it’s a retreat group or a gathering of friends and family, we’re happy to offer this property for groups to be together and make lasting memories.
- 11 bedrooms with king size beds
- 6 bathrooms, 4 with showers
- Yoga room with lake views
- 800 feet of lakeshore with a canoe and stand up paddleboards available for use
- Fire pit and screened in lakeside hangout spot
- Game room with a pool table and foosball
- Cozy movie room with streaming channels
- Creative studio with art supplies and large work tables
- Huge kitchen and dining room with 2 refrigerators, breakfast bar, and a 36″ stove
- Recreation center with pickleball and other indoor sports equipment
Lilly owns and operates Hillman Retreat House along with her husband and two kids. They all live in south Minneapolis but have enjoyed spending many weekends at Hillman Retreat House working on various renovation projects. A lifelong learner, she’s completed yoga teacher training, reiki I and II training, and is currently learning more about plant medicine and herbalism. She’s actively decolonizing her worldview through both learning and practice, and is happy to connect with others who are doing the same. https://www.hillmanhousemn.com/