Wednesday, April 3, 2019

John Cleveland Osgood and Redstone, Colorado

John Cleveland Osgood

John Cleveland Osgood was a prominent figure within the coal industry and best remembered for erecting the town, Redstone, Colorado. Born in Brooklyn on March 6, 1851, Osgood moved to Burlington, Iowa with his father when he was 6. A few years later, he was sent to live with relatives in Providence, Rhode Island after his father died. An office job at a cotton mill taught him business. He moved to New York City at 16 and found work in a Produce Exchange Commission while attending night school. Afterward, he returned to Burlington and took a job at White Breast Fuel Company and a position at First National Bank as a cashier.
   During his time with First National Bank, he learned the banking side of the business world. This led to him taking over the fuel company at age 26 and visiting Colorado to learn more about the state’s coal resources for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad. Osgood bought several tracts of coal land in Colorado and formed the Colorado Fuel Company. His business grew fast and he eventually merged with Colorado Coal and Iron Company to become Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. Bessemer Iron Works in Pueblo, Colorado became the company’s headquarters.  
   Colorado Fuel and Iron mined about three quarters of the coal in Colorado, but miner strikes between 1894-1901 proved costly for the company. Osgood testified before the Colorado General Assembly that he knew what was best for miners and not the labor unions, going so far as to declare labor unions a threat to the United States. During the same time frame, an idea to eliminate labor unions, known as welfare capitalism, was gaining popularity. Osgood approved this idea, believing a happy and content worker was a productive worker who didn’t strike, and set about providing for his employees’ every need by building Redstone, Colorado.
Coke ovens
Located west of Pueblo and south of Glenwood Springs, Redstone was constructed as a company town. Coke ovens were built to turn coal into coke (see explanation below on coke and coal). To carry the coal from the Coal Basin mines and the coke to the foundries in Pueblo, the Crystal River railroad was built. To accommodate employees’ housing needs, Osgood built 84 cottages for married workers and 1 dormitory with 40 rooms for single workers. The cottages and the dormitory were somewhat of a rarity as they all had indoor plumbing and electricity. Some of the cottages are still in existence today, as is the dormitory. To further accommodate his married employees' needs, Osgood built a school for their children.
Employee cottage
   Osgood also built the Redstone Club, which had reading rooms stocked with papers in different languages, weeklies and magazines. A library, small theater and a bath house were also part of the Redstone Club, which cost $25,000 to build; $707,000 in today’s market. Redstone boasted a saloon, with card tables and pool tables. Saloon rules were strictly enforced, to include a ‘No Treating’ rule, which prevented anyone from buying a round of drinks to avoid drunkenness. Gambling was kept to penny ante poker and dime wagers on a game of pool. Rounding off the town was an irrigated garden, a public barn for employee’s livestock, and a wash house for laundering clothes, but the crème-de-la-crème to Redstone was and still is Osgood’s castle, Cleveholm Manor.
Cleveholm Manor
Built to impress his second wife, Swedish Countess Alma Regina Shelgrem, Cleveholm Manor is a 24,000ft English Tudor-style castle. Designed by New York architects Boal and Harnois, work on the Manor began in 1897 and was finished in 1901, with a price tag of $50,000 (1.1 million in today’s market). Sometimes called Redstone Castle, the manor sits on 72 acres and includes servants’ quarters, a gamekeeper’s lodge, carriage house, greenhouse, and a kennel for dogs. Gate keeper’s homes were erected on the north and south boundaries. The stable housed horses, cattle and chickens, with a game preserve of deer, elk and bighorn sheep, and a stocked fishing pond.
   Sadly, Cleveholm Manor nearly fell to ruins. A strike at Colorado mines weakened Osgood’s company. He successfully foiled a takeover by John Gates from Chicago, but lost to John D. Rockefeller and Jay Gould in a stock war in 1903. Osgood was forced to abandon his welfare programs, though he did remain active in combating unions, this time around with violence. He founded the Victor-American Fuel Company and took up residence in New York City; his stay at Cleveholm now infrequent. Eventually the manor was boarded up when Osgood elected to spend time in Palm Springs or cruising to Europe. He finally returned to the manor with his third wife, Lucille, in 1925 when diagnosed with terminal cancer. He passed in 1926 and Lucille tried to turn the estate into a resort, but the Depression thwarted her plans.
Historic Redstone Dormitory/Inn
Today, Redstone, Colorado is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has a population of about 130. The dormitory is now the Redstone Inn and Cleveholm Manor and the gamekeeper’s cottage are listed independently on the National Register. The castle contained 75 percent of its furnishing as of 2004 and was bought by the owners of Hotel Denver in Glenwood Springs and underwent restoration, to include road and utility work. Currently, it is open for tours.

   ***Coke is made by heating coal in the absence of air to drive off impurities to leave an almost pure carbon. Cokes made from coal are hard, grey, and porous.
Interior Cleveholm Manor

Interior Cleveholm Manor

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