Ambitious couple revives historic hotel in Moro
Story and photos by Drew Myron
In a small town where nearly every storefront is vacant, Amanda and Travis West see opportunity in an abandoned hotel.
The Wests are two years into a massive renovation project to revive a 100-year-old property in the center of Moro. With time, muscle and a bit of grant money, they’re working hard to bring their vision to life.
Situated on the corner of Highway 97 and Main Street, Hotel Moro is a stately presence covering 24,000 square feet over three floors and a walkout basement. Built in 1920, the building has 50 hotel rooms.
Upon restoration, the hotel will offer 13 modern rooms and suites, along with a coffee shop, gift shop, event space and backyard beer-tap patio.
“We’re ambitious,” Amanda says. “Everyone thinks we’re crazy.”
Time has been tough on the sizable structure. Throughout the years, the historic hotel served as ice cream parlor, boarding house and antique store, and has endured a hodge-podge of remodels and alterations.
When the Wests bought the building in October 2020, the once-pristine place was a hoarder’s mash of furniture, books, clothes and collectibles. The second floor alone, says Amanda on her YouTube video tour, was “23 rooms packed with stuff.”
“The hotel has passed hands many times over the years, and 45-plus years ago, someone started turning it into an antique store,” she explains. “We are very rural, and it was probably not cost-effective to keep trying to run it as a hotel at the time. So, there’s mostly accumulated stuff over many, many years.”
The couple filled dumpster after dumpster, then invited the public to buy or take the remaining clutter. Even still, many rooms remain full. There’s an entire room of lamps and lights, for example, and another room crammed with books.
“The third floor is in the most disrepair, looking more like an abandoned building than a hotel in need of a makeover,” Amanda says. “The hotel rooms had lots of crumbling lath and plaster, and even some exposed brick.”
The energetic couple—Amanda is 35 and Travis is 36—have done much of the work. Room by room, they have knocked out walls, lifted sagging ceilings, repaired drywall, refinished floors, tiled bathrooms and more.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time at the chiropractor,” Travis says.
With a total land area less than half a square mile and a population of fewer than 400, the county seat is the smallest in Oregon.
In the early 1900s, this tiny town thrived as the agriculture hub for soft white winter wheat. Commerce buzzed with two hotels, a blacksmith, a flour mill, a mercantile, several churches, a county courthouse and a newspaper.
Today, wheat remains the dominant crop, but downtown business now includes one minimart, an auto parts store, a bank, a history museum and a modest motel.
“There’s no coffee shop in the entire county,” Travis says. “We see this as a gathering place for the community and a destination for travelers looking for unique places to visit.”
The Wests draw inspiration from the historic Central Hotel in Burns. The boutique lodging blends old charm with modern comforts.
High school sweethearts, Amanda and Travis have been married 17 years. They moved to Moro four years ago for a job. Travis works as a detective in cybercrime for the Sherman County Sheriff’s Office.
So committed to the hotel overhaul, the couple have moved into the work in progress. The Wests and their four children—three girls and one boy, ages 4 to 11—along with Travis’ parents, have made the hotel their home.
While under renovation, much of the building is without water, heat or electricity.
“We’re kind of roughing it,” Travis says, nodding to the battery-operated lights.
The Wests have no investors and, with the exception of a few grants, are restoring the hotel with their own funds. The city of Moro provided funds for exterior paint, an enhancement that turned the historic building from faded, peeling pink to elegant hues of taupe and plum.
Recently, the project was awarded a $200,000 Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant to install and improve the electrical system, plumbing and floors.
Hotel Moro is an “incredible resource and iconic building for the communities in Sherman County,” says K’Lynn Lane, executive director of Oregon Frontier Chamber of Commerce. “Travel and tourism enrich the soul. Hotel Moro will offer a rural experience and enrich the travel experience of anyone visiting the region. The cultural exchange between residents and visitors, and the dollars that are spent within our community are vital and make an impact in our local communities.”
Armed with vision boards, budgets and research, the Wests hope to open for business in 2024. The immediate focus is to create a first-floor coffee shop, coffee roasting and event space. They have already renovated and rented two of the four studio apartments in the daylight basement.
Amanda says they are not daunted by the expensive and work-intensive endeavor.
“We just take it room by room, a little at a time,” she says.