Finnish immigrant Ephraim Kent settled in Red Lodge in the early 1900s to work in the coal mines while his wife, Fiina, began a small dairy business. It was a family venture from the start, with all the children pitching in to deliver raw milk in buckets, and later bottles, to local customers. The business grew, and by 1938 the Kent sons and their wives were all involved in the dairy. When a city ordinance prohibited cows in town, the family moved, purchasing this land and an abandoned building in Bear Creek. They meticulously salvaged its bricks, wood joists, and decorative tin ceiling, which they used to build their barn. Eighty-one-year-old Emery McNamee, an expert on round barns, served as building consultant, but the work was accomplished by Ephraim and his sons. Although none of the Kents had ever laid brick, they quickly learned, displaying uncanny ingenuity in adapting materials at hand along the way. Steam pipes recovered from a nearby mine served as stall dividers, hand-hewn beams were finished with a plane whose cutting bit was a piece of leaf-spring from a car, and thirty-seven log support posts were shaped with a draw knife. Built with the determination, perseverance, and fortitude the Finnish call “sisu,” the round barn served the industrious, hard-working Kents for thirty years. Many locals remember summer dances held in the spacious second floor before it was filled with winter feed. When Armas and Sylvia Kent retired in 1969, the barn was converted for use as a restaurant. Its historic function remains evident, however, and the cherished Red Lodge landmark is today an excellent example of adaptive reuse.

Images

Map

U.S. 212, 2 miles north of Red Lodge, Montana ~ Private