Jim started construction of Bishop Castle, as it's called, on a plot of land in Southern Colorado, in 1969 and has laid every stone and shaped every plank himself. The building boasts an impressive and cathedral-like Ballroom and a tower over 160ft (49m) tall linked to the rest of the structure by pair of scary-looking aerial walkways. It's now a popular tourist destination with over 600,000 visitors a year and entry is free. Bishop is just happy to let people enjoy it. Weddings are now staged there.
In the mid 1980's, a friend of Bishop's was driving a truck full of discarded stainless steel warming plates from the Pueblo County Hospital to the landfill. He decided that Jim could probably put it to better use and so dropped it off. Bishop spent the winter building a chimney out of the steel, riveting thousands of hammered scales that he cut out of the plates to a metal frame. The resulting dragon is now perched over the Grand Ballroom and the addition of a burner from a hot air balloon (another donation) allows the dragon to genuinely breathe fire.
(Photo Texas Tongs)
There was a time when, all over the UK, people built follies. Many have now become beloved tourist attractions. Sadly, those days are gone with restrictive planning regulations and an army of NIMBY types insisting that nothing be built that is curious, odd or eccentric. At least in much larger countries like America you can still do this kind of thing. And the country is all the richer for people like Jim Bishop.