While visiting in the Colorado Springs, Colorado, area
we were staying in a campground that was just on the outskirts of
a little town called Manitou Springs. It is difficult to describe
this town with its quaint little shops, restaurants, and houses.
One of its claim to fame is the Pike's Peak Cog Railroad which
takes you to the top of Pike's Peak. Another, was a place called
Miramont Castle. Having visited a number of "castles"
in our travels we decided that we would have to check out this
local site. The Miramont Castle was indeed a formidable building
to behold from the outside. We learned that it was built around
1895 and featured nine styles of architecture: shingle-style
Queen Anne, Romanesque, English Tudor, Flemish Stepped Gables,
Domestic Elizabethan, Venetian Ogee, Byzantine, Moorish and Half-Timber
Chateau. I could recognize some of these styles but most were far
beyond my knowledge of architecture. We found out that a French
born Catholic priest, Father Jean Baptist Francolon, designed
Miramont and commissioned a Scottish contractor, Angus Gillis, to
build it. His reason for building the house was for his mother.
The priest and his widowed mother first occupied Miramont as a
private home in 1895. Father Francolon planned the castle in the
style to which his very wealthy and aristocratic mother was
accustomed in their chateau in Clermont, France. Miramont in
French, Spanish and Latin means "look at the mountain"
and we really can as every door and window gives us a mountain
view. Father Francolon had made arrangements with the Sisters of
Mercy to care for him and his mother, so the food for the castle
was prepared by the Sisters in their sanitarium and brought down
an underground passage to be served from the kitchen. Father
Francolon and his mother, Marie Francolon, entertained in a
lavish manner in the castle. Unfortunately the priest's mother
spoke only French and could communicate only with the servants
that she brought with her from France. After several years she
became homesick for her native France and returned there. In 1904
the Sisters of Mercy converted Miramont to a
sanitarium, their original sanatorium was located in a building
that was behind the Miramont Castle, where the parking lot is
now. The house then went through several owners and had become
quite rundown before the Manitou Springs Historical Society took
ownership in and began the loving restoration of the Castle.
Unfortunately there was little information available on the
original décor and only a few minor pieces of furniture have
survived Miramont's checkered past. As a result what they are
doing in the Castle is a representative restoration. In other
words, they have furniture and artifacts, donated by fine old
families of the area, that would be representative of the time
period of Miramont's heyday.
As you approach the outside of the house you can't help but be impressed by the sheer size of it. Miramont has 46 rooms, and is over 3 stories tall. Today the entrance takes you into what would have been the basement area of the house. As you go to the right you find the International Museum of Miniatures. There are dolls of the world and fantastic International Village models. The models were crafted by Dr & Mrs. Charles Smith for their study of other world cultures. The houses have intricate detail both inside and out. Another exhibit features the buildings of early downtown Colorado Springs.
After leaving the tiny villages and dolls you climb a staircase to the Drawing Room, Music Alcove, and Greenhouse. The wallpaper on this landing is documented (copied from wallpaper that existed in 1895).The alcove arch is Bysantine and the alcove windows are Romanesque. One of the most spectacular features of the room is the large fireplace. The hand-cut stone fireplace extends 7 feet back into the mountain and is said to weigh over 400,000 lbs. Fortunately, a number of the stained-glass windows remained intact throughout the various changes of owners. As we continued to wander through the house I couldn't help but marvel over the beautiful woodwork and architecture that the Manitou Springs Historical Society were able to restore to their original beauty for future generations to enjoy. If you get by Colorado Springs, be sure and take a look at beautiful Miramont Castle. It is well worth the time and effort to go through it. If you would like more information on the Castle, check out their website at: Miramont Castle