REDSTONE, Colorado - Over more than a decade of guiding tours of the historic Redstone Castle, Sue McEvoy has perfected her costume.
On a recent Saturday, as snow swirled around the sandstone walls of the 110-year-old castle and temperatures hovered in the high teens, McEvoy greeted 10 tour guests in the castle entryway. She was wearing an elegant white dress with a matching hat, a long fur coat and a turquoise necklace.
Her wardrobe echoed the fashions of the late 1800s, when coal and steel baron John Cleveland Osgood founded the tiny Crystal Valley hamlet of Redstone as a coal mining camp.
In fact, McEvoy's clothes resembled the finery favored by Osgood's first wife, Irene. Osgood built the Redstone Castle out of locally cut sandstone in Irene's honor. But before it was completed, in 1903, his wife was gone.
"She ran off to Europe and had an affair with a writer there," McEvoy said, "After that, Osgood actually had her obituary published in the New York Times."
Today, the three-story Tudor-style mansion has been preserved in near-original condition, and is open for tours every day through Dec. 31, then on weekends through the winter of 2013.
The castle sits on 150 acres above the Crystal River south of Redstone, on what is now a fraction of Osgood's original 550-acre estate.
The castle's contents offer an intriguing look at the life of a true 19th century robber baron. Each room is decorated to evoke the design traditions of a different country: there's the Russian dining room, with red velvet walls and dark mahogany furniture, the Persian library with its wallpaper of dyed elephant hide, and the French-themed music room, complete with a marble fireplace built from Italian stone.
Despite the proximity of the Yule Marble Quarry just up the road from the castle, all the marble in the house was shipped from Italy.
There are 14 fireplaces throughout the castle, and the great hall, festooned at Christmas with holiday decorations, features ornate Tiffany chandeliers.
"Seventy-five percent of all the furniture and fixtures in the house date back about 100 years," said McEvoy. "We know this because of a set of black and white photos of the house taken before 1910."
Over the 15 years that McEvoy has worked at the Redstone Castle, ownership of the structure has changed seven times. Its current owner, part-time Aspen resident Ralli Dimitrius, bought the castle for $4 million in 2005.
Dimitrius, who is based in Pasadena, Calif., owns a cattle company and several other businesses. He could not be reached for comment on his vision for the castle.
But McEvoy said Dimitrius hopes to revive the structure as a high-end resort.
"The plan is a pretty exclusive hotel, resort and restaurant, which would be a venue for weddings and events," she said.
Planning is in the early stages, but the tentative title, according to the castle's website, is the Redstone Castle Resort and Spa.
Dimitrius' plans for the castle have been public since he bought the property seven years ago, but aside from re-opening the castle for tours in 2007, he has made few changes to its daily operations.
According to McEvoy, several large improvements need to be made before the new business can be launched, including tying the castle into Redstone's new wastewater treatment plant, changing the zoning from residential to commercial, and installing fire suppression and handicap accessibility features.
Before Dimitrius acquired the castle, it had been closed since 2003, when it was seized by the Internal Revenue Service as part of an investigation of its former owners.
That group, a consortium of six people finally convicted in 2007 of defrauding investors of $56 million in an elaborate ponzi scheme, used the proceeds of their scam to purchase the castle in the late 1990s.
They bought it from Ken Johnson, the former publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, who sold the castle several times in the mid-1990's, only to get it back repeatedly when its owners entered foreclosure.
Over the years, some have attributed the castle's checkered history to a curse put on the Crystal Valley by its former inhabitants, the Ute Indians, in 1880.
The curse is described in the book "Marble, Colorado: City of Stone," by Duane Vandebusche and Rex Myers.
The authors claim that after coal was discovered in the valley in the 1870s, miners broke a treaty with the Utes that had granted them the right to live in the valley "as long as the rivers ran and the grasses grew."
In response, the Utes placed a curse on the land, declaring that no attempt by the white man to use the valley to his benefit would ever succeed.
Curse or not, though, the castle has long played an important role in the economy of Redstone and Marble, both isolated burgs that depend heavily on tourism to survive.
"From our perspective, it's a local historical site, and because people can't tour the marble quarry, they love to tour the castle," said Carla Callahan, owner of the Inn at Raspberry Ridge in Marble. "It's always been something that people have liked to do."