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—Courtesy of the Bishop family

Only in Colorado: Bishop Castle

Ostensibly the world’s largest one-man project, this quirky stronghold southwest of Pueblo is a testament to what one person can accomplish by steadfastly pursuing a dream.

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In 1959, 15-year-old Jim Bishop fell in love—not with a woman, but with a heavily forested, 2.5-acre plot of land at nearly 9,000 feet elevation in the foothills southwest of Pueblo. Too young to purchase the parcel himself, Bishop asked his father, an ornamental ironworker, to buy the land for him with $450 that he’d fastidiously saved from odd jobs like mowing lawns and helping his dad in the family’s iron working shop.

The two Bishops spent the next 10 summers removing trees from the property, which is nearly encircled by the San Isabel National Forest, and preparing a clearing in which they planned to build a summer cabin. In 1969, after falling in love again—this time, with his wife of 49 years, Phoebe—Bishop began to build their family a one-room cottage from local stone.

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What started as a cottage, however, has grown over the years into a most unusual building. In the beginning, when friends and local ranchers would stop by to see the progress, they’d joke that it looked like he was building a castle. Bishop took this to heart and kept on building, without the benefit of blueprints or drawings.

For close to half a century, Bishop has expanded his castle, collecting, lifting, and cementing thousands of tons of rock into place. He has incorporated many distinctive architectural and decorative elements like bridges, arches, and two towers, the highest of which stands 160 feet tall. More recently, he has added a dramatic entrance with a drawbridge-like gate, a moat, and even a fire-breathing dragon built from stainless-steel warming plates.

The pursuit of this dream, however, has not always been easy. Beyond the physical labor, Bishop was engaged for decades in a long-running conflict with the U.S. Forest Service regarding permits, height limits, and his use of rocks from the adjacent forest land. Bishop has also had disagreements with the state, which initially refused to list his castle as an attraction in its official visitor guides.

Those disagreements have since been resolved, and Bishop Castle is now a popular roadside stop for visitors in the area. The castle’s construction has been funded entirely by donations and gift shop sales, according to the website. Sadly, just over a year ago, Jim, now 72, was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer, which has kept him from working on his castle—a dream that he still considers unfinished.

Visit: The castle is located at 12705 State Highway 165 in Beulah, about 18 miles northwest of the I-25 exit at Colorado City, about 24 miles south of Pueblo. Admission is by donation.

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