BISHOP CASTLE, COLORADO
Jim Bishop has been building one of Colorado’s most spectacular monuments to persistence for for 60 years. Bishop Castle is a massive stone and iron sculpture that proclaims the beauty and grandeur of not just having a dream, but sticking to it no matter what, and, most importantly, that everything is possible if you believe in yourself and work hard to sustain that belief. The Bishop Castle has three full storeys of internal chambers, including a Grand Ballroom, soaring towers and bridges with vistas of a hundred miles, and a Fire-Breathing Dragon, making it a memorable experience! Visitors are always welcome and the castle is always available to the public.
Let’s speak about what it means to be inspired. In 1959, at the tender age of 15, Jim Bishop bought $450 for a two-and-a-half-acre tract of land in southern Colorado that was surrounded on three sides by the spectacular San Isabel National Forest. It was money saved by mowing lawns, dumping newspapers, and working at the family ornamental iron factory with his father Willard. Jim had dropped out of high school that year following an altercation with his English instructor, who screamed at him, “You’ll never amount to anything Jim Bishop!” Jim had been drawn to the mountains seen to the west from Pueblo since he was a child, and after discovering
a little 2-1/2 acre property on a weekend bicycle ride with some friends, persuaded his parents to buy it for him with his money. So Willard and Ma Polly signed the land contract, which Jim wasn’t even old enough to accomplish, and the family suddenly owned a densely wooded two and a half acre at 9000 feet. Jim and his father spent the following ten summers camping on the property and laying the foundation for a family cabin. Setting the tone for what was to come, Jim quickly discovered that he loved swinging an axe and using a shovel or pick in constructing their clearing, which is today the court-yard between the family cottage and the castle’s driveway. Jim and Phoebe married in 1967, a partnership they still cherish, and in 1969, at the age of twenty-five, Jim felt it was time to start building a cabin in the mountains they adored. He decided to start building a one-room stone house because rocks were numerous, ubiquitous, and free.
The birth of a castle
At 9000 feet, snow doesn’t melt entirely until the middle of May, sometimes even into June, thus the summer building season is brief, especially when working with mortar, which cannot freeze while drying. While working at the ornamental iron shop to support the family, there’s only so much that can be accomplished in a few of months. Jim began construction on his cabin, and after a while, Jim and Willard began exchanging two-week periods at the store, one operating the company and the other working on the family cottage up the mountain. This lasted until late spring 1971, when the cabin’s lack of running water became a concern. Willard suggested installing a gravity-fed cistern made from a huge metal tank he salvaged from a welding operation, which they’d have to fill once or twice a summer. The water tank was started because Jim believed it would be useful. Willard encased the 40-foot metal cylinder with stones. The walls of Jim’s cottage increased as he worked on it. Throughout the summer, family friends, a few of nearby ranchers, and even some family members observed that they appeared to be constructing
a castle! “Hello, Jim!” That appears to be a turret of some sort!” “Are you constructing a castle?” Jim had heard it so many times by the time When late spring 1972 arrived, Mr. Jim Bishop’s imagination had been piqued, and he began informing friends and family that he was, in fact, going to build a castle! When Willard first heard this, he asserted categorically that castles were usually rather large, and that he was not going to be a part of it! “Wow, that’s a lot of work!” Jim continued to build, and what began as a one-room stone house with an Eiffel Tower-shaped fireplace gave birth to The Bishop Castle, the country’s, and maybe the world’s, largest one-man endeavor.
It Just Keeps On Growing!
As word of the person up in the mountains chasing the American Dream of being King of Your Own Castle spread, so did word of the guy up in the mountains who was seeking the American Dream of being King of Your Own Castle! People began to visit Jim more frequently, and he was frequently asked whether he wanted assistance in building his castle. Sure! was the answer for the first eight years. And not a single individual honored their pledge and turned up to help over those eight years. In a sarcastic outburst, Jim said, “By God, I’ve gone this far by myself.” Do it yourself if you’re going to do anything well!” (and possibly a few other things that shouldn’t be printed) So, like the castle itself, the notion of the castle being a one-man enterprise arose during the construction process and was not, according to popular belief, an initial plan or a childhood fantasy. And he continued to construct. As well as construction. As a result, the Bishop Castle rose in size.
Visitors to the Bishop Castle today will see an imposing stone and iron statue that proclaims the beauty and grandeur of not only having a dream, but sticking to it no matter what, and, most importantly, that if you believe in yourself and work hard to retain that belief, everything is possible! The Bishop Castle has three full storeys of internal chambers, including a Grand Ballroom, soaring towers and bridges with vistas of a hundred miles, and a Fire-Breathing Dragon, making it a memorable experience! Visitors are always welcome at no cost, and the castle is always OPEN. Please keep this trust and honor in mind when you come!