Building Stands as Keenan Legacy

Keenan building was first apartment complex. (Photo by Pat Blair)
Keenan building was first apartment complex. (Photo by Pat Blair)

As part of our ongoing look at Sheridan's historic buildings, this week's feature focuses on one that date's back to the turn of the 20th century.

The Keenan Apartments building at the corner of Main and Works streets, was built in the early 1900s by R.A. Keenan, and still has apartment space on the upper floors. But the main floor houses the BHJ-Century 21 office. It was Keenan's most visible legacy. In his day, the structure was the largest apartment building in Sheridan.

Richard Keenan was a native of Pennsylvania who came to Sheridan in 1905 by way of Rock Springs and Kemmerer, where he served in 1898 as the town's first mayor. Following his arrival in Sheridan, he quickly became involved in the affairs of his new home. He became a stockholder in the Sheridan Brewing Co., and company president in 1910. Nine years later, prohibition dealt the brewery a massive blow, but Keenan moved on to other pursuits. When the Hotchkiss Coal Company incorporated in 1920, Keenan was its first president.

The company was later sold to the Sheridan Wyoming Coal Company, but by that time, Keenan had already moved on to politics. He was so active in the Democratic Party in Sheridan County that he was given the title of Sheridan County's third-estate senator. In 1932, at age 68, he ran successfully for the Wyoming Senate. Among his achievements, he earned the title of Father of Wyoming's Liquor Law. He was re-elected to the state senate in 1936, but his triumph was short-lived. In January of 1937, he was hospitalized in
Cheyenne, suffering from influenza and complications that may have been caused by adult-onset diabetes.

He died within the month, in the early afternoon of Jan. 27, in Cheyenne's Memorial Hospital. He was 72 years old. On receiving news of Keenan's death, both houses of the Wyoming Legislature closed for the day. Among his survivors was a son, Hubert, and three daughters. One of his daughters, Alice Keenan Hart, died in April, three months after her father.

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