Tucked away in rural Harney County, Burns sits far outside of Oregon’s busy I-5 corridor. Such out-of-the way locations often have difficulty attracting investment to their historic downtowns. But Burns has one resource other small towns don’t have: the Keady family. Jennifer and Forrest Keady moved to Burns with an ambitious plan in mind: to convert a neglected former Masonic Lodge into a ground-floor optometry business, with spacious living quarters nestled above.
A project of this scope would be challenging no matter what, but neither Jen nor Forrest Keady had any formal training in architecture or preservation. The Keadys were not deterred.
Forrest designed the building’s interior spaces using an i-Pad app. When it came time for demolition, the three Keady sons rolled up their sleeves and eagerly worked alongside their parents.
Forrest used salvaged materials — including wooden bowling alley flooring and lockers rescued from an old police station — to shape the new interior. And he fashioned pieces of scrap metal into new doors and custom furniture. This effective blending of historic and salvaged materials yielded attractive retail and living spaces which suit the handsome former lodge quite well.
As restoration of the lodge’s main facade neared completion, the Keady family noticed something wonderful. Formerly sleepy downtown Burns seemed to be perking up, inspired in part by their successful rehabilitation of a long neglected structure.
As Jen Keady said in her DeMuro Award nomination application,“Old buildings…old towns …. They have so much potential and so much life left to give, if someone is willing to put their own heart and soul into a project.”
Recently, a new project captured the hearts and souls of the Keady family. Inspired by the transformation of their lodge, the Keadys committed to restoring Burns’ long-vacant Central Hotel.
Interior demolition was recently completed, and two new structure-bearing beams were installed. New subflooring has replaced old, rotting floorboards, and original hotel doors have been collected to be repurposed as headboards for new hotel beds. Eventually, wood salvaged during the demolition process will be turned into tables, mirrors and accessories.
Once renovation is complete, the building’s upper floor will house a dozen comfortable hotel rooms, while retail space will occupy the ground level below. Several businesses have already expressed interest in leasing the this new retail space.
The Keady family has launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising $30,00 to help complete their latest project.Their fundraising page shares many entertaining details about the Central Hotel’s past, and exciting plans for its future: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/871913958/the-historic-central-hotel-burns-oregon
Might the Keadys have another DeMuro Award-winning project in their future? Only time will tell. For now, Restore Oregon applauds the Keady family and their wholehearted commitment to historic preservation.
For serving as excellent role models for grassroots/DYI preservation, for going “all-in” on a historic rehab and making it a family affair, and for courageously investing in the future of a small rural Main Street, Restore Oregon was delighted to present Jen and Forrest Keady with a 2016 DeMuro Award for their impressive reimagining of the Burns Masonic Lodge.