About a month ago I visited one of Colorado’s architectural treasures: Miramont Castle in Manitou Springs, Colorado.
This grand home was built for someone very important. But I won’t tell you who until the end of the post. We’re going to play a little guessing game – no cheating! No Googling!
Look for clues in the interior pictures I took below.
I will give you a little background though…
Miramont Castle was built between 1895 and 1897. It was built as a personal residence. Must have been someone very wealthy huh?
The original owners lasted only a couple years in the castle then it was sold to an order of nuns. The nuns ran the building as a sanitarium until 1946. After that time the building was divided into 9 apartments and rented out to returning soldiers from WW2.
For the next 30 years, the Castle was used as apartment rentals and it fell into serious disrepair. The condition got so bad that the building was almost condemned. Mercifully, the Manitou Springs Historical Society swooped in and bought the ailing castle in 1976, thus saving it from the wrecking ball.
Thousands of volunteer hours and dollars have gone into the restoration of the building and there is still work to be done. But the castle is now run as a museum and also features a tearoom and gift shop.
The Miramont Castle restoration crew were careful to leave as many of the original elements as possible like this ‘poison wallpaper':
Why is it poison?
Because it contains an arsenic compound called Paris Green – which was used in the 1800’s to prevent certain colors from bleeding. It has since been banned because it is so toxic and caused all manner of ailments and deformities. (Don’t worry, the swatch on display is behind protective glass.)
Carrying on with our tour….
Miramont Castle has four stories with the entire backside tucked into the steep hillside and the window side facing due south. It has 30 rooms in 14,000 square feet. The building features 9 styles of architecture – all designed by the original owner.
Several of the rooms were designed specifically for the lady of the house.
The photo above depicts a WW2 tribute room which the museum set up to honor the Castle’s past life as apartments for returning soldiers.
Below is a historic photo showing tourists passing by the grand home while it was still a private residence:
And pictured below is the master’s quarters:
The top floor of the castle is where the servants lived…
On the wall opposite to the tiny servant bedrooms was this odd looking thing:
This sign explains what that thing is:
It just gives you an idea of how unique and difficult the construction of this place was!
Below is a picture I snapped of the gift shop which is also located on the top floor:
And that concludes my pictorial tour.
Any idea who could have been the original owner/designer?
The answer is Father Jean Baptist Francolon, a French born Catholic priest. The lady of the house was his elderly mother!
Apparently, they were from a very wealthy, aristocratic family.
The scuttlebutt around Manitou Springs is that Father Francolon was a loner and very unpopular with the locals.
He and his mother left the town unexpectedly in the year 1900 and returned to France where Madam Francolon passed away. Father Francolon lived for another 10 years in New York then died in 1922. He never returned to Miramont Castle in Colorado.