San Isabel National Forest, Colo. – Jim Bishop welcomes dreamers, wanderers and visionaries from around the world to his castle in the clouds.
Nestled in the center of the forest, the castle towers over Highway 165 along the old Rye-Star Wetmore postal route. For Bishop, the sound of children laughing on the property is better than money.
Bishop and his father Willard began construction on the two-and-a-half acre parcel of land in 1959 when Highway 165 was still made of gravel and there was nothing on the land but timber. After 57 years he’s handled every stone of the castle at least six times and hauled all of it in from as far as the town of Westcliffe.
John Burks has ridden his motorcycle past Bishop Castle with his touring buddies for two decades.
The Afton, Illinois, man was impressed with what he found. This year he brought his wife of 34 years, Joan, to see this metallic fortress as they journeyed to the Grand Canyon.
“What an interesting man. I can’t imagine 57 years and at some point, not saying I’m going to give up. It just amazes me that somebody could have that, stick to it and keep going,” Burks said.
Bishop is far from finished. Whether he is shoveling snow during mud season or preparing for the summer foot traffic, his attention is required year round. He believes the popularity of the castle stimulates the local economy.
“I am the Chamber of Commerce Pueblo, Custer County and the United States of America because people are coming from Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania to see the castle,” Bishop said.
The hand-built three-story castle also has a fire- breathing dragon that towers over the landscape. There are no admission fees but Bishop accepts donations. Guests are required to sign the guest book that releases any liability to Bishop Castle. Bishop’s dedication to the castle is deep, regardless of any obstacles he may face. He believes if he had followed football the castle wouldn’t exist.
“Kids need to stay in school, so they don’t have to work their butt off like I did to amount to something. To be somebody,” Bishop said.
The gift shop on the property is operated by Christian Sutherland and his mother Shelley Beierle, who owns it. Sutherland, a finance student at CSU Pueblo, has been working at the gift shop for 12 years.
“I think it’s really awesome that people can come and enjoy something just for the freedom of being able to do it,” Sutherland said.
As springtime approaches, the peaceful sound of birds chirping, bees buzzing and wind howling all pass through the castle of dreams in the clouds of Colorado.
Author: Dayna L. Himot
Dayna L. Himot aka Dénouement is a staff writer at Metrosphere, Met Media DIME Project Manager, and Met Radio’s resident house and techno DJ. A product of the late eighties and early nineties underground club scene, she considers herself a diehard New Englander. In reality she prides herself in the cultural climate of wherever she is. Her passion for social documentation via sound, prose, and experience was spurred at a young age. With two sons in high school, she now is a junior at MSU Denver minoring in French with a concentration in social documentary journalism.