Aurora,  Oregon
Old Keil House, built 1860

The Keil House: A Pioneer in Preservation

Frederick Keil – circa 1875. (Image
courtesy of the Aurora Colony
Historical Society)

Born in 1841, Frederick Keil was the third of nine children born to William Keil, the founder of the utopian Aurora Colony. Having relocated to Oregon with his family in 1855, Frederick married Louisa Giesy in 1863. By the summer of 1869, the couple and their children were living in the new colony hotel while their house was under construction. It was completed in 1870. The Colonists opened a store to non-members on January 1, 1857 and Frederick Keil had a part in its operation from the beginning. He continued to take an active part in the business and social life of the colony until his early death at age 42 in 1883.

The Keil House is exceptional in its plan and accommodations with the size of the rooms being remarkably generous. The house is further noteworthy for its substantial porches whose turned columns were produced locally and measure nearly 10 feet high on the lower level and over 7 feet high above.

Frederick’s son Eli lived in the house until the late 1950s by which time it had fallen into disrepair. In 1960 the house was abandoned and scheduled for demolition when Robert Bogue, a professor of architecture at Portland State University, happened upon it. Following its purchase from the Keil family, Robert and his wife Lucille carefully renovated the house. With their encouragement, the house formed the nucleus of renewed interest in the history and preservation of the Aurora Colony and temporarily served as the new historical society’s first museum.


View of the dilapidated Keil House in approximately
1960. (Image courtesy of the Aurora Colony
Historical Society)

Volunteers of the newly-formed Aurora Colony Historical
Society in the kitchen of the Keil House in 1963. (Image
courtesy of the Aurora Colony Historical Society)


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