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On Walkabout At: Miramont Castle In Manitou Springs

One of my favorite cities in Colorado is Manitou Springs located at the base of Pikes Peak just outside of the major city in the region, Colorado Springs:

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One of the more popular attractions in Manitou Springs for people to visit is the historic Miramont Castle:

When my family walked into the door on the first floor there was a very nice lady who welcomed us.  She took our admission money and then proceeded to give us a brief history of the building.  The history of this castle began back in 1895 when Miramont was first constructed by Father Jean Baptiste Francolon as a home for himself and his mother.  Francoln was a Frenchman who had moved to New Mexico to preach.  He constructed the castle using his own personal funds since he was the member of a very wealthy family in France.  He chose to move to Manitou Springs in 1892 a bid to improve his ill health since the city’s springs had become famous for curing illnesses.  The castle he constructed was 4 stories high, consisted of 46 rooms, that filled 14,000 square feet of space. Indoor plumbing, steam heating, and electricity which were all rare at the time were included with the building of the castle.

Here is a picture of Francoln that was hanging up in the castle:

Francolon and his mom lived in the castle until 1900 when they decided to move back to France.  They never returned to Colorado and in 1904 the Sisters of Mercy bought the abandoned property and used it as a sanitarium for for tuberculosis patients until the 1920’s.  Francolon would die in 1922 while he was living in New York City.  Beginning in 1946 the building he left behind in Colorado was then sold to various individuals where it was eventually turned into an apartment building.  The apartments were used to house war veterans from World War II and was called “Castle Apartments”.  Castle over the decades eventually fell into disrepair and faced being demolished by the city until the Manitou Springs Historical Society raised enough money to buy the structure in 1976.  The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 as many thousands of hours of volunteer work was put in my the Historical Society to restore the building to the beautiful condition it is now in today.

After finishing up the brief history lesson the nice lady then gave us directions to follow for the self guided tour of the castle.  The first part of the self tour is the firefighter museum that has been established on the first floor which was originally a basement area of the castle.  The firefighter museum had a number of displays and items from the city’s firefighting history:

What firefighter museum would be complete without Smokey Bear?:

Regular readers of On Walkabout may remember my prior posting when I visited the Capitan Mountains where the legend of Smokey Bear began.  Something else of interest in the firefighter museum was the replica doll houses someone made of downtown Manitou Springs.  The doll houses were elaborately decorated and quite impressive who ever constructed them:

From the firefighter museum we back tracked to where the ticket counter was which was also where the stairs that takes visitors to the 2nd floor is located.  When my family and I visited Miramont Castle it was shortly after Christmas Day thus the castle was still lavishly decorated for the holidays to of course include a large Christmas tree in the reception hall:

Something of interest in the reception hall was a large stone fireplace that was believed to be the largest fireplace constructed in the country back in 1895:

Here is the dining room that is located adjacent to the reception hall:

Adjacent to the dining room was of course the kitchen where the French servants that Francolon hired cooked meals for the family at:

Something we found of great interest as we walked through the castle was the many historical photographs of Miramont Castle and Manitou Springs that were hanging on the walls.  Here is a picture of Miramont Castle after it was constructed:

Here is a picture of the castle in the 1920’s after it became a sanitarium:

Finally here is a picture of the building in the 1960’s when it was Castle Apartments:

There were many other pictures to see but I found this picture of Ute Pass in the 1880’s which Highway 24 now ascends up into the high country quite interesting:

Going up into the high country back then was definitely a more difficult experience compared to today.  The final part of the 2nd floor we looked at was this small chapel that was created after the Sisters of Mercy bought the building to be used as a sanitarium:

It really was a pleasant little chapel where small weddings are sometimes booked to be held at.  It would be tough to find a nicer location than this for a small wedding.  There is a small room located on the right side of the chapel which was once where a bathroom was located.  Inside this little room is only piece of original furniture from when the castle was first constructed:

Underneath the staircase to the 2nd floor in this old bathroom is a sealed room where the wallpaper from the original building can be seen.  This small area had to be sealed due to a poisonous arsenic compound that was used in the wallpaper:

The room also had this beautiful stained glass window that depicts various important parts of the Pikes Peak region:

The small room located on the left side of the chapel was the smoking room that had this pretty cool suit of armor in it:

From the 2nd floor we then followed this beautiful grand staircase up to the 3rd floor:

The stairway leads to this fabulous seven sided glass window room known as the Conservatory:

This room that was once used as a greenhouse offers some nice view of Manitou Springs and the surrounding mountains:

Inside the Conservatory was this old poster advertising the spring water that long ago made Manitou famous:

There was actually once a bottling plant in Manitou that used to sell the Manitou Springs water across the nation.  The bottling plant closed down long ago, so anyone wanting to try out this famous water will need to drive to Manitou with their own bottle and fill it from the various springs themselves.

The next room we walked into was a guest room filled with military memorabilia which is not surprising considering the strong military ties that Colorado Springs has with one Army base, two Air Force bases, and the Air Force Academy all located here:

Some of the memorabilia included items from former enemies such as the Nazis:

As well as these samurai swords wielded by members of the Imperial Japanese military.  The sword on the top was interestingly enough wielded by a Korean member of the Japanese military since Korea was militarily occupied by the Japanese prior to World War II:

Here is an example of one of the bedrooms in the castle:

The next room we checked out was this sewing room:

Here is an example of what a bathroom would have looked like all those years ago:

Here is another large bedroom on the third floor:

Also on the third floor there is what is known as the Great Hall which was used to host parties.  The historical society that owns the castle continues to hold various functions here in this Great Hall during the year as well:

The Great Hall besides holding parties was also used to house Francolons extensive art collection that he brought back to France with him.  Here is another beautiful bedroom located on the third floor where I really liked the multiple windows that provided great views from the room:

We next headed up the last flight of stairs to the 4th floor attic area which is where the servants that worked in the castle lived.  Up here space was much smaller than other areas in the castle with low clearance for the doors and petite rooms:

The rooms where no where near as big as the ones on the third floor but really not all that bad as long as the servant didn’t have to share the room with anyone else:

The final thing located on the 4th floor is a gift shop that has various Colorado themed items and books for sale that may be of interest to some visitors.  After checking out the gift shop we exited the 4th floor door that leads outside the castle to a roadway on the hillside above the castle.  From here we walked down a flight of stairs that runs on the side of the castle back to the parking lot.  All in all it was an interesting visit and well worth the 1.5 hours we spent checking out the castle.  The beautiful restoration of the castle really gave my wife and I a feel of what the Victorian era lifestyle was like in Manitou Springs over a hundred years ago.  We were both really amazed that someone would spend so much money to make such an elaborate and beautiful home and then live in it for such a short time.  Fortunately the Manitou Springs Historical Society has done a great job maintaining the building and now everyone else can spend a short time experiencing what it was like to be a rich aristocrat back in the late 1800’s at Miramont Castle.

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