One of my first assignments as a reporter for a small newspaper in New York State's Adirondack Mountains was to cover an auction of the contents of a historic Great Camp.
More than 100 years of Adirondack history was spread out on tables: custom furniture by Gustav or L. & J. G. Stickley, guide boats, bearskin rugs, dishware and other bric-a-brac amassed by the lodge's wealthy owners. Items were distributed into the hands of eager collectors with each thwack of the gavel and shout from the auctioneer. All the items, which together told the story of a family, had been disinterred from their secret, dusty resting places. They didn't belong in the glare of 21st century sunlight. But wandering among the ancient oddities, I got a very peculiar feeling. I realized it wasn't the antiques that were out of place in this scene. It was me. I was the anachronism.
The same feeling returned when I stepped into Castlewood Manor, a 17,300-square-foot, eight-bedroom Autumn Lane estate in Mountain Village. Although it was built in 1993, the home has the feel of a turn-of-the-century lodge. Large wooden front doors with stained glass accents open into a warm, cozy enclosure of timber and stone; the familiar smell of wood smoke wafting from the great room fireplace stokes a feel of nostalgia.
Adirondack Great Camps were elaborate family compounds with multiple buildings, where wealthy city dwellers would vacation to escape the summer heat of east coast cities. The lodges were located in wooded, remote, often waterfront areas, where families could relax and enjoy the wilderness. However, these places did not leave modern, urban luxuries behind. Many of them had bowling alleys, theaters and dance pavilions among their amenities.
Castlewood is modeled after this idea, with a game room, theater and enormous wine cellar, and also with a distinctly Western flair. Saddles hang from the rafters. Wagon wheel chandeliers light up bedrooms. A kids' play loft is full of miniature toy horses. Shed antlers form a railing. Soft fur rugs insulate bare feet against chilly stone floors.
"We did a lot of research on what a family compound would have looked like in Colorado," said Castlewood Interior Designer Cecily Hughes.
The three distinct dwelling areas of Castlewood — Hot Springs House, Coachman's Quarters and the Great Lodge — all feature Hughes' masterful touches. Toilets are old-style: tank up top, and a pull chain to flush. Tubs are crafted from wood or copper. Sepia-toned portraits adorn the walls. Hand-crank meat grinders and metal scales are nestled in a kitchen corner.
Hughes worked on film sets for more than 15 years before transitioning to designing homes. She has an eye for detail: some of Castlewood's cowhide lampshades have been tea-stained to give the light an amber quality, for example, similar to candlelight. Pages of books have also been tea-stained to make them appear aged. Some pieces have a steampunk feel. Others, though admittedly eccentric, just felt right. Hughes searched the interior West — from New Mexico to Texas, Wyoming, and Colorado's Front Range — in search of the perfect pieces for Castlewood.
"I always had something in mind that we were looking for," she said. "Part of the fun is you get to go into little junk shops" in out-of-the-way spots like Amarillo, Texas.
It is not just Castlewood's decor that transports you back in time. While every room is simple, rustic, and comfortable, what keeps you rooted firmly in the past is what you don't see. Modern conveniences — refrigerators, microwaves, dishwashers and coffee makers — are all concealed behind wooden facades. Light switches blend into walls. Television sets are either tucked inside giant armoires, or in a secret floor panel that arises with the push of button. Speakers for the sound system remain out of sight (they're in the ceiling).
Castlewood "has all the modern amenities, but they've been camouflaged, so you wouldn't know they're there," said Property Manager Beth Hess. "'When you walk in here, there's nothing to catch your eye to pull you out of that time period and into this time period."
And what exactly is 'that time period?" There's no definitive answer. The Great Camps of the Adirondacks had their heyday during the Gilded Age of the late 19th Century. But it's hard to pin Castle-wood to a specific time period, other than to say it feels old. Hughes said it’s the effect she is going for, the place is not historically accurate — it is historically authentic.
"We wanted to make it feel timeless — to suspend time," she said. "We looked to the architecture from the turn of the century, but our desire was that it would transcend any one time frame. There's nothing about that is too obviously modern."
Castlewood is grandiose in a way that isn't splashy or pretentious. It's traditional and classic; dignified and regal, it's also a tiny bit frayed at the edges, in a way that says it has stood the test of time and been well loved, a gathering place for generations.
The property's previous owner is responsible for its current design and atmosphere. In October of 2016, Telluride Ski and Golf owner Chuck Horning purchased Castlewood for $6.5 million, according to San Miguel County property records. His plan, Hess said, is to rent the property for family reunions, corporate retreats and weddings.
Castlewood's defining feature is that it is experiential down to the last detail. For example, you don't just feel like you are in an underground cavern swimming around the grotto of the Hot Springs House. You are in an underground cavern; tree roots hang from the ceiling, and lanterns flicker, casting shadows across walls of stone.
"I hope people understand that Castlewood is designed to be a retreat. For making memories and having experiences together," Hughes said. "It's not just a place with scented lotions and high-thread-count sheets. Most of all, I wanted it to feel comfortable, not formal. I wanted it to feel rare."