The restoration of Cottage 11 on the former Owatonna State School grounds has been quietly taking place over the past year and May 16 is the date that the grand opening of the cottage will take place. The cottage, located northwest of the Owatonna Arts Center in West Hills, was built in 1923 at a cost of $35,000 to “aid crowded conditions.” It became home for hundreds of state school boys over the next 22 years.

Former state school resident Harvey Ronglien of Owatonna, who lived in the cottage for eight years, reflected: “Our ages ranged from 6 to 14 and normally 30 to 35 of us lived together side by side.”

After the orphanage was phased out in 1945, Cottage 11 continued to house children in the Owatonna State School. After the State of Minnesota closed the institution in 1970, the building stood empty until 1974 when the city of Owatonna purchased the campus area. Over the next 30 years the city rented the building for various purposes and in 2004 the city turned the building over to the Orphanage Museum for preservation and restoration.

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Ronglien said, “To the best of our ability, we’ve tried to breathe life back into the building as it was in the 1920’s and 30’s and share stories of how the boys lived in the disciplined and regimented life of the State School.”

Plans for the day

The public is invited to come to West Hills on Saturday, May 16, to enjoy the day on the State School grounds. Hours of the celebration will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. All of the highlights in the museum will be on display. You will be able to take a walking audio station tour of the grounds, visit the root cellar, walk through the gymnasium and school, visit the children’s cemetery and of course take a “first glance” cottage 11 tour. There will also be a documentary titled “The Children Remember” in the Little Theatre. State School “characters” will be wandering throughout the grounds to give you a fun and insightful feel of the orphanage era. In the former kitchen area, the Owatonna Arts Center will be featuring a collection of mixed media artwork by Jenna Erickson… art which was inspired by her visit to the orphanage museum in 2006. Food will be available from Famous Dave’s Barbecue.

How it all began

The vision to save Cottage 11 was first sparked by Orphanage Museum Board members in 2004 when the building was open for touring during Owatonna’s Sesquicentennial celebration. The building remained much as it was with the original design.

Today, five years later, the cottage has been saved from the ravages of time and transformed into a renewed landmark of historic preservation.

Maxine Ronglien, Orphanage Museum Board Chair said, “Our goal is to accurately tell the story of the unique way our state, in previous generations, cared for its orphaned, dependent, neglected and abused children. Our hope is that this interpretation of history will have an impact on every visitor who enters the door, and that it will be a treasure for the Owatonna community in the years to come.”

The Orphanage Museum Board also acknowledges the in-kind support from the City of Owatonna and the financial support from former State Schoolers, their families/friends, the Owatonna Foundation, Owatonna citizens and Owatonna businesses.

Maxine said, “The combined effort of in-kind and financial support plus donations of artifacts and contributed memories have brought this project to the day of our grand opening open house on May 16.”

Pre-opening celebration

On May 7, the Orphanage Museum Board will host a pre-opening celebration in the Owatonna Arts Center. This public fund-raising event will include wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres, and a sneak preview of the newly restored Cottage 11. Information on tickets will be available soon.

Volunteers needed

Would you like to be a volunteer greeting tourists at Cottage 11 and sharing this unique Owatonna history? Week day and weekend hours will be available. For more information, call (507) 774-7369 or

Anderson named ‘Teacher’ finalist

Congratulations to Owatonna High School math teacher Marcia Anderson who has been named as one of eleven finalists for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award. The award is presented annually by Education Minnesota, the 70,000 member state-wide teachers union. The Teacher of the Year will be announced at a banquet on May 3.

U14 girls hockey team shines

The Owatonna Youth Hockey Right-Way Painting U-14A girl’s hockey team became the first U14A team in OYHA history to compete in the state tournament last week in Buffalo. The girls lost to state runner-up Roseau 6-0, beat NE Suburban United 3-1 and lost the consolation championship to Bemidji 5-4 in overtime. The girls finished the season with a record of 26-6-6. Several of these girls will be moving on to the high school varsity program next year. Coaches are Steve Cochran, Mark Radue, and Brian Price.

Havelka named tourism head

You will be happy to know that our tourism promotion in Owatonna will be in good hands. Lisa Havelka has been named as the new Director of Tourism for Owatonna. Lisa is the former Lisa Krampitz and graduated from Owatonna High School in 1998. She has led the Chamber’s MainStreet program and assisted in the Chamber’s economic efforts for the last seven years. Her background is in heritage preservation. She graduated from St. Cloud State with a BA in community development.

Brad Meier, OACCT President/CEO said, “Lisa is someone who grew up in Owatonna and loves the area. We know it will be natural for her to sell this area and attract new visitors. She’ll hit the ground running.” Lisa will begin her new position on April 6.

Wayne Field passes

Wayne Field, a 1939 graduate of Owatonna High School died on Tuesday, Feb. 24. Although involved in lots of Twin City activities, Wayne never forgot his home town of Owatonna. He was a generous contributor to the Owatonna Foundation. He ran the largest privately held assisted-living facility in the State, Heritage of Edina. He was a world traveler, ran for governor of Minnesota, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for several local charities and was an Aquatennial commodore and president of the Minneapolis Jaycees.

Stan the barber’s last customers

A week ago, Stan Trenda retired after 50 years of barbering in Owatonna. His last day was Thursday, March 26 and his final haircut was given to none other than Matt Kottke. That’s appropriate, because Matt’s mother, Faye Kottke, used to bring him and his two brothers down to Stan’s back in 1964 for their haircuts and he’s been a regular customer since then. Others who had their final haircuts from Stan on that last day included Frank Korblick, Steve Williams, Dick Jarvi, Kevin Coad, Gary Etherton, Bud Peka and Stan’s brother, Ray Trenda.

Gifts to the school district

Latest gifts to the Owatonna Public Schools came from Target Corporation. $169.42 went to Willow Creek School and $781.90 went to Washington Elementary School.

Peterson rangering fairways for 23 years

I had a nice visit with John S. Peterson who is a familiar face at the Brooktree Municipal Golf Course. This is the 23rd year that John will be a ranger on the course. Prior to that, he worked for about five years for Leon Moat who was the pro shop manager. John loves the game of golf. He loves playing it (150 days a year) and he especially enjoys his friendship with regular golfers at Brooktree. John has had one hole-in-one in his golfing career and while performing ranger duties has been hit numerous times by driven golf balls. Some of his regular golfing companions are Bob Dunker, Dan Peterson, Pat Vizna and Bob Boreen. John is a spry 83 years young and is looking forward to this season.

Dustin Reese honored by local KCs

The Owatonna Knights of Columbus named Dustin Reese as their Knight of the Month for February. He is a right-hand man to Columbian Center Manager Mark Cunningham when it comes to cooking and food preparation. He helps with all the Friday night dinners and this year he was chair for the KC Free Throw Championship for the Council and District.

Frederick granddaughter in Chinese reality series

Elizabeth Frederick, a granddaughter to Mel and Donna Frederick of Owatonna is a contestant in a Chinese television series called “Shanghai Rush,” a show that pits two-person teams in a race across the Chinese city of 20-million. Frederick and her partner, Nic Anderson, are giving a string of clues or a task to perform. The show will begin running May 3, triggering the one-year countdown to the Shanghai Expo with 12 episodes in all.

Elizabeth is a teacher and helps edit English articles for the Shanghai Student Post and writes two articles a week as a staff writer. She is a graduate of Rochester Mayo High School.

More on Owatonna Knife Co.

Last week I wrote that the Historical Society obtained a knife with “Owatonna Knife Co.” stamped on it and requested more information. I received some from family members in town. The Owatonna Knife Co. was sort of a hobby run by William Blazek Sr. who was a carpenter and a mason. Much of his work can be seen today in the sidewalks in older sections of town and William also built the concrete walking bridge in Dartts Park. He made knives upon request in his shop. Each knife had a forged metal handle stamped with “Owatonna Knife Co.” William had three sons, Robert and Emil in Owatonna and Bill in Ames, Iowa. There were also three daughters, Dorothy Fischer and Susie Nelson of Owatonna and Pat Knutson in Kansas.

Gary and Mary Staats inducted

Gary and Mary Staats were inducted as Meritorious Service Pioneers at the Minnesota State U.S. Bowling Congress Hall of Fame held in Duluth on March 28. Gary said, “It was a great honor to be there and to be recognized.” Three of Gary’s daughters, Kay, Brenda and Val were present as were three grandchildren, also Joyce Nelson (inducted in 2001), Shirley Sobrack and Chuck and Bev Fuller. Marie Bedney was also inducted in 1992.


• The Steele County Historical Society will hold its April Board meeting at the Blooming Prairie City Center Monday night at 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend this meeting.

• The final in the Historical Society lecture series will take place this Tuesday, April 7, when Jan Stevens speaks on “The History of the Little Black Dress from the Civil War Until Today.” The lecture is at the Saco Church at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

• Word is that the new menu at Jerry’s Supper Club will include “Faye’s Chicken,” which is Faye Kottke’s favorite… a chicken breast topped with asparagus.

Todd Hale can be reached at or write him at 632 14th St. S.E., Owatonna, MN 55060.