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Knight in disguise.


He's not a knight come back from medieval times. He's not a king, either. In fact, he's just a normal 60-year-old American. Normal except for one fact: He has a castle that he's built, stone by stone, with his own two hands.

Jim Bishop, of Pueblo, Colo., has been single-handedly building Bishop's Castle for the last 35 years.

"I've done it all myself," he says. "It's the biggest one-man project in the United States."

Bishop is not fulfilling a lifelong dream by building the castle. In fact, when he started building, it wasn't even going to be a castle. Thirty-five years ago, at the age of 25, all he wanted was a place in the mountains. So he bought a little piece of land on a mountain and started building.

"I just wanted a little place away from the city," he says. "A tent would have been fine with me. But there were so many stones up there, so I started building a little stone cottage. Local people would stop by and say, 'Hey, are you building a castle?' And then one day it dawned on me--if something that small was a castle to them, anything I built--towers, buttresses--would be a castle. So it was inspired by the public."

Bishop had no original layout or plan.

"It's not a building," he says. "It's an art form. I had no plan; it was just ad lib. But it's going together as if it were meant to be."

The castle weighs approximately 50,000 tons. Two towers rise 160 feet off the ground, making the castle visible to travelers on the nearby highway. A dragon's head extending from the front of the castle breathes smoke when a fire is going in the room below, and it will soon breathe a stream of fire 20 feet long when a large donation is dropped into the donation box. The proceeds go to charity to help babies with heart problems.

Bishop's Castle is open year round, and admission is free. The castle sees more than 100,000 visitors a year.

"The castle belongs to the people," says Bishop. "I built it for the people. It's totally family-friendly. A lot of people come and set up tents around the castle. We let them build fires, too. I ask people to clean up their mess, but that's it. I don't have a lot of rules. I'm easy to get along with. I want people to be relaxed."

Bishop hopes to be able to put a parking lot near the castle so that visitors will no longer have to park along the highway. Right now, he is working on a hollow wall that will surround the castle. The wall will be at least two stories high. He also plans to put in a gatehouse and a drawbridge.

Bishop says that in the beginning, the castle was an obsession for him--taking first place in his life, even over his family. But over the years, he has gotten his priorities straight. His family, including his wife of 38 years, Phoebe, comes first. The couple have three children and three grandchildren. Despite the time he spends at the castle, his family is supportive.

Bishop has accomplished a lot in the past 35 years. But he gives all the credit to God.

"Everybody has God-given talents. Mine just happens to be building things. Everybody is born with talents, with a chance. But some people choose to throw their life away. I didn't want to do that, he says. "I will never finish the castle--that is not my goal. I just want to see how much a man can do in a lifetime with the talents God gave him."
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Title Annotation:Jim Bishop
Author:Rexroth, Hannah
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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