It takes a special kind of vision to take a 1937 landmark, and turn it into a fully modern facility while keeping its historic feel. Lee and Anne Kimball have succeeded in doing that and more.
The Rogue River Lodge has recently undergone an 11 month, $1 million renovation. But renovation might not be quite the right word for it.
The Kimballs have been traveling to Southern Oregon for many years to visit relatives in Medford and the Upper Rogue. They had always talked of retiring in the Upper Rogue. “Little did we know it would be at the Lodge,” they chuckled.
As veterans of the restaurant industry, they didn’t come into the project totally blind. Anne explained that, “Lee could envision the potential. I took a little more convincing.” But on Mothers Day 2009 it all started.
This wasn’t your typical slap some paint on it, clean up the sign and re-open kind of project. The Kimball’s re-worked pretty much everything, including new insulation (a first for the Lodge), new electrical, plumbing and a central air system. The Lodge also sports a brand new, 1500 bottle wine cellar in a space behind the Riverview room where space was created by digging around the foundation to create the cave-like structure.
Other physical changes included removing the raised seating section in the main dining room. That was done to open the space up, providing higher ceilings throughout and to make life easier on the staff. They also turned the downstairs bar, known as the Riverview Room, around 180 degrees, allowing patrons to look directly out at the River.
Along with being a major renovation, the project took on an archeology expedition feel. Things found during construction included candy wrappers from the ‘30s, a bottle of Medford’s Finest Gold Seal Beer and newspapers from the same era.
While construction was the biggest project, reworking the menus was the next task. “We wanted to feature some of our favorite meals from over the years. We also wanted to use as much locally grown products as possible.”
The new menu seems to have something for everyone. Garlic and Shallot Roasted Chicken, Lodge Signature Meatloaf, Braised Lamb Shanks, Rib Eye, Prime Rib, Salmon and Seafood Scampi are entrees sure to please. If lunch or lighter fare is what you want, the bar menu will include a wide range of appetizers, burgers, melts, soups and salads.
Other features of the Lodge include a walk-up window which will allow rafters or families with children to enjoy food and drinks from the bar menu, without having to go inside the bar. Outside dining is also available on a deck located next to the main dining room, or on the lawn that stretches from the Lodge to the river. A private room is also available upstairs for parties or meetings.
While the Lodge was originally constructed during the Great Depression, the renovated Lodge is also coming to life during difficult economic times.
The Kimball’s give much credit for help in completing the project, which has created 30 new jobs for Southern Oregon to SOREDI. Anne and Lee expressed their gratitude to Alex Pawlowski, business development and loan manager at SOREDI, “He could see the vision as we presented it to him. Their role is job creation and that is what we’re all about.”
By Mike Leonard
For the Independent