There’s a man in Colorado building his own castle, a work in progress since 1969.I do not know what skills someone would need to build a castle; all I know is that I do not have them. Joe Bishop does.
He learned through lots of trial and error, as far as the stonework goes, but all the curly cues of wrought iron are what he does when he is not building this castle. He owns Bishop Ornamental Iron in Pueblo, Colo.
Bishop Castle stands many stories tall (its tallest tower is 160 feet off the ground) on his plot of land west of Rye, Colo. This is not something you find in a guidebook, but rather by word of mouth and websites like Atlas Obscura. People definitely know about it, as evidenced by the lines of cars along the two-lane highway. You would probably miss it while driving by if it wasn’t for the cars.
For a castle built by hand, Bishop’s Castle is pretty impressive. But then, if you are not too afraid of heights, you start to climb it and begin to wonder how safe it is and why there are not restrictions or security.
Jon led the way up the outside staircase of uneven and unequal concrete steps.
We first went into the castle’s main room, a hall often used for weddings. Part of the peaked ceiling is glass with much decorative, twisting metalwork that serves as support trusses.
There were windows, some with stained glass, on both ends of the room.
We headed next to the towers, of which there are four. This is where things got a bit scary because these towers are not your standard European church tower built with precision.
These towers are homemade, without many safety precautions, handrails (a custom handrail [hammered cold!] does exist in Roy’s Tower, in the southwest corner, named after his son who died at age four while Jim was felling trees), barred windows, and railings. I like feeling safe when you are a couple hundred feet in the air, and there were not many moments of feeling safe on top of Bishop’s Castle.
Take the first tower we ascended. Its top had access to an incomplete bridge that one could easily walk right off.
There also is an Epcot-like top that Jon asked me to climb into for a picture. I was not excited about welded metal swaying in the air and standing on it.
The other towers were much of the same. On top of the tallest, the balcony is rimmed with roughly one-foot-tall stone pieces that serve as very little comfort for someone like me.
There is plenty of lumber and tools lying around and many other ways someone could get hurt here. On the way out we read on a sign that upon arrival one is supposed to sign away any rights you could have while on the Bishop property. We did not see this sign until our way out, so we saw no waivers and definitely did not sign any.
But I am a worrier. Jon is not. Maybe you are or maybe you aren’t.
I can’t say that I necessarily recommend climbing the towers, or visiting with small or rambunctious children. All of the things that scream danger to me are pretty obvious and most adults in their right mind won’t do anything stupid. Still, I worry, though, and the added height does not help. And it was quite calming to return to the solid ground, as long as I watched where I was walking.
Even so, the view from the top is nice, especially on a clear day like the afternoon we were there. And yes, this is a cool architecture stop and interesting to see how one man has followed his dreams.
I may have pointed out some things I was uncomfortable with at Bishop Castle, but this man is doing what he wants with his life and has continued following his dream for 42 years.
On the castle’s website, in the final part of the history section, called As It Stands, Bishop writes:
Today’s visitors to the Bishop Castle will find an impressively monumental statue in stone and iron that cries loud testament to the beauty and glory of not only Having a Dream, but Sticking with your Dream no matter what, and most importantly, that if you do believe in yourself and strive to maintain that belief, anything can happen! Three full stories of interior rooms complete with a Grand Ballroom, soaring towers and bridges with vistas of a hundred miles, and a Fire-Breathing Dragon make the Bishop Castle quite the unforgettable experience. Visitors are always welcome FREE of charge, and the castle itself is always OPEN [only during daylight hours]. Please respect this trust and honor while visiting!
And I think anything is worthwhile for a dream.