Monthly Archives: August 2013

Behold! Bishop Castle and the Frontier Pathways Byway

Too bad more + more everything is about money.

The masses, today, are begging not to be free.

You, citizen, don’t need a driver’s license.

-Jim Bishop, as seen scrawled on signs at Bishop Castle

Ever hear about the guy who built an entire castle all by himself? There are a couple such fellows, it turns out. Florida has its Coral Castle, a monument to lost love. Ohio’s Loveland Castle was handbuilt for a class of Sunday school boys. And on the Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway, Jim Bishop built Bishop Castle because he felt like it.

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In 1969, after paying $450 for 2.5 acres of mountain land, Jim Bishop and his father began building a stone cabin. Skilled ironworkers both, father and son were nearly done with the cabin when they ran into trouble installing running water. They forged a water tank from a 40-foot-high metal cylinder and built stones around it.

Visiting friends pointed out that the water tank looked like a turret. The seed of Bishop Castle had sprouted.

 

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Jim, still in his early twenties, decided to built the cottage into a castle. His father, unwilling to commit to an entire castle, dropped out of the project. Undeterred, Jim continued, hauling rocks from nearby highway ditches, cutting down and milling his own wood, mixing mortar by hand, building arches from railroad ties. He deployed a pulley and come-along winch systems to lift heavy objects, like the tree trunks that are now floor supports for the multi-story castle.

It was, in the Bishop Castle website’s official words, a “massive re-organizing of the scattered granite in the Rocky Mountains into the form of the Bishop Castle.”

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A static journey of sorts, Jim’s experience enticed him to explore his own philosophies around freedom and God.

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He wrote a book, Castle Building From My Point of View. His wife Phoebe started the Bishop Castle Non-Profit Charitable Foundation for New-Born Heart Surgery, so the castle could legally  fund itself through voluntary donations. The castle itself is now a fairytale edifice of ironwork and spires, complete with an 80-foot-high, fire-breathing metal dragon. It’s open to anyone who wants to stop by, and oftentimes Jim Bishop himself emerges to chat with visitors.

If nothing else, Bishop Castle makes you think. If this guy can build an entire castle all by himself, what can you do? Is there an activity that’s so absorbing, so creative and educational, that you’ll come back to it day after day, even in the most trying of conditions? I’m willing to bet that everyone has something like that. Their muse. Jim’s might just be more obvious than most. Indeed:

“[His] belief in America being a Free Country made up of Free Persons has fueled his passions in building the castle to represent the American Dream in an undeniably tangible and awe inspiring form!”

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Bishop Castle is just one of the many things you’ll discover on the historic and less-traveled Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway. To get the full lowdown, grab a copy of the second edition of the Backroads and Byways of Colorado