Tours reveal Redstone Castle’s storied history
REDSTONE — Longtime Redstone business owner Bob McCormick has met a lot of people who have driven Colorado Highway 133 for decades without ever pulling off to explore the little village.
When they finally do, he said, “They say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the cutest little town.’”
With many of the quaint village’s businesses being tourist-oriented, it depends on attractions to draw visitors who will shop, dine and perhaps spend a night or more there. And perhaps no attraction is more important than the Redstone Castle, which is why the castle owner’s decision to begin offering daily rather than just Friday–Sunday tours this summer is welcome news to Redstone.
“We’re happy that they’re open daily. It’s a good thing,” McCormick said as tourists, fresh off a castle tour, stopped in to his and his wife Deb’s Redstone Company Store, which sells mountain home decor.
The daily tours mark a continuing positive trend since the castle’s 2005 sale at auction for $4 million by the Internal Revenue Service. After the sale, villagers anxiously awaited news about whether the new owner, Ralli Dimitrius, would provide public access at all. He resumed tours in 2007.
Had Dimitrius not done that, McCormick said, the impact wouldn’t have been so bad before the economic downturn. But with the village hurting more recently, “It would be kind of a double-whammy if the castle weren’t open, too.”
There always has been an inextricable link between the castle and village, going back to the fact both were the creation of one man, John Cleveland Osgood. He developed them in conjunction with becoming one of the nation’s wealthiest industrialists around 1900. Osgood opened a local coal mine and built 88 cottages and an inn for workers in what became Redstone. He envisioned it as a model company town where he hoped to keep miners happy enough that they wouldn’t unionize.
Osgood also built ovens in Redstone to convert coal to coke for use in his Colorado Fuel and Iron steel-making operations in Pueblo. And as his efforts enriched him, he built near Redstone what at the time was called Cleveholm Manor. A 42-room mansion, it was constructed in the English Tudor style from the local red sandstone that gave his village its name. It served as a hunting retreat where Osgood hosted everyone from President Teddy Roosevelt to famed banker, financier and industrialist J.P. Morgan.
Today, tour guide Sue McEvoy shows visitors a residence that boasts such luxuries as Tiffany lighting fixtures, hand-stenciled linen wall coverings, oak and mahogany paneling, and 14 fireplaces.
Linda Eggers of Glenwood Springs brought two out-of-state guests with her on a recent tour.
“I’ve been here before, and I loved it,” she said.
For Beth Lopez and her mom, Becky Weatherly of Lubbock, Texas, the tour was a must-do part of their visit to the area.
“I found it on the Internet and told my mom I wanted to come see it,” Lopez said.
“I just never knew any of the history here,” she said after McEvoy walked and talked visitors through 90 minutes of facts and anecdotes about Osgood and his home, village and enterprises.
The tours are only one step in a bigger business plan for Dimitrius. He eventually hopes to restore it to the point where it can accommodate weddings, other events and overnight guests as it did before ownership troubles culminated in the IRS auction. But the castle has been an ongoing project for Dimitrius, a Californian who has a background in real estate and owns a home in Aspen.
He first had to have the residence’s plumbing and heating systems refurbished. He since has had chimneys relined, asbestos removed, a new sprinkling system installed, and most recently, roofs and gutters replaced and stucco repaired and other exterior work done.
Before Dimitrius can proceed with an expanded commercial operation at the castle, though, Pitkin County is requiring him to put in a new sewage-treatment system, something that could occur this fall if approvals come in time.
“It’s the biggest piece in the puzzle,” McEvoy said.
Like its early days, the castle’s recent history is colorful. McEvoy began working there in 1996, when it was owned by former Daily Sentinel publisher Ken Johnson. She said he tried three times to sell it but kept getting it back in foreclosure in the later 1990s.
It sold at auction in 2000. The IRS then seized and sold it after the castle’s new ownership became involved in a $56 million investment-fraud scheme.
McEvoy hopes the daily tours and eventual weddings and overnight accommodations offered by the castle will boost a village that has struggled of late. An arts community, it now has competition in that regard from nearby towns such as Carbondale and Basalt, and it suffered from the coal mine’s closure in the early 1990s.
Today a rebound may be in the works, thanks not only to the castle but other initiatives such as Pitkin County’s efforts to restore four of the coke ovens along the highway, and stabilize dozens of others. McCormick said people stop in town just to ask about the coke-oven project.
Meanwhile, his store launched initiatives such as wine tastings to further appeal to tourists.
“We’re just trying anything we can to keep Redstone alive during this time. It’s been kind of sliding for a few years now, but it’s starting to pick up again,” he said.