Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Castle of the Week: Bishop's Castle

Welcome back to another castle of the week! This week's castle is Bishop's Castle in Colorado (USA) and is presented to you by Joan Maze! Enjoy!


by Joan Maze
Yes, Colorado has a castle, a replica of a medieval structure that is still in progress, one called “The craziest castle in Colorado” by Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

As he indicated, one could easily miss the castle except for the cars parked at the side of the scenic highway in the San Gabriel National Forest. Some years ago, when visiting my sister in Colorado, we took one of our many tours of the area, and this one brought us by Bishop’s Castle.

We didn’t visit the castle as, I believe, they weren’t taking visitors at the time, but we stopped and I peered into the forest, trying to see the castle. I did see the very top peeking through the dense woods, and it fueled my imagination and tickled my senses.

The castle is open daily, year-round, but during daylight hours only. Admission is free, but donations are requested. The castle is located less than an hour’s drive from Pueblo. Information is available at www.bishopcastle.org under “Visiting the Castle.” Further details can be obtained by calling 1-719-485-3040.
According to the reporter:

            Made of native stone that castle builder Jim Bishop extracted (by permit) from adjacent national forest land, the castle features intricate wrought-iron bridges and walkways that cling to its towers. Bishop Castle is decorated with stained-glass windows along its front wall; a metallic dragon's neck and head jut from the apex of the castle's great hall. The dragon, made from recycled metal hospital trays, shoots fire from its gaping maw with the aid of a burner from a hot air balloon. The castle's fireplace vents through the dragon's nose, expelling smoke from the beast's nostrils.
This unique castle in “cowboy country” was, and still is, being constructed by one man. At the age of 15, Mr. Bishop purchased the 2 ½ acres for $1,250. Started as a family cabin in June of 1969, the structure grew to the castle visitors see today. As the reporter said,
            Fearless children clamber up its concrete steps and along the wrought-iron balconies. Their more inhibited parents move cautiously behind them, marveling at the craftsmanship of the hand-laid stone and metal work, including a basket-style lift that runs on a track from the ground up to the castle's great hall level.
Originally planned as a getaway to be in the mountains, hunting, fishing, climbing, etc., it was originally a family project, but Jim Bishop’s father quit the project in 1971 and Jim continued on. He and his family live in Pueblo.
            Because he used stone to build the initial cabin ("We were too poor to buy conventional building materials," he said), passers-by said it resembled a castle. So he decided that's what it would be and kept going. In 1971, Mr. Bishop's father, Willard, quit the project, and Jim Bishop has done pretty much all the work since, a point of some contention.
            "It is Jim, and only Jim, who has built the castle," reads the Frequently Asked Questions page at the castle's Web site, www.bishopcastle.org. On a water tank in the oldest corner of the castle, Mr. Bishop has scrawled a note explaining that his father helped with that part only. "Jim Bishop has constr. [sic] (by hand) everything else!"

            At one time Mr. Bishop allowed others to lend a hand here and there, but he had bad experiences with unskilled laborers getting in his way.
Following are photographs of this amazing castle, which I hope one day to be able to visit. My imagination has now conjured up a suspense/mystery of a woman fleeing for her life who comes upon the castle. But is there additional danger there?
Joan K. Maze
Writing as J. K. Maze


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