Philip Lawrence Hannum...
To qualify for the $7,500 Centennial-Bicentennial grant in 1976, it was necessary to provide a detailed plan for the work. Architectural heritage restoration consultant, Philip Lawrence Hannum spent several weeks in the building, documenting and surveying the needed work. He took hundreds of photos that appear in the extensive historic architectural assessment and preservation analysis he produced
It would have been impossible to undertake the restoration without the remarkable knowledge, devotion, and inspiration provided by Mr. Hannum. His skillful document has supplied the vital "road map" so necessary to this project.
As Mr. Hannum’s work is over 30 years old, a new assessment is underway, thanks to a grant from The Colorado State Historical Society, providing professional evaluation of necessary work for the 21st Century.
Manitou Springs Historical Society
The Society was formed in 1971 and immediately began to work toward the acquisition of a building that could be used to preserve and display Manitou's remarkable and precious heritage.
Miramont Castle was the unanimous choice and was purchased on February 17, 1976. The Society was able to match a grant from the Centennial-Bicentennial Commission and began the work of restoration. The project is ongoing, and The Society continues to raise funds for the restoration and to rely upon volunteer help.
Sisters of Mercy...
The Sisters of Mercy came to Manitou at the behest of Fr. Francolon, who had donated his first Manitou home for their use as a sanitarium, primarily for the treatment of tuberculosis. They received their first patient in August of 1895 and by March 1896 they were beginning a large addition to the facility.
The Sisters were renowned "for the excellence of their table, the cleanliness of their rooms and their motherly care of the health-seekers." They did not, however, accept acute cases, which they felt were better served by the hospital in Colorado Springs.
The Sisters helped to expand the cultural horizons of Manitou society by offering "lessons on piano, violin, mandolin, guitar and banjo" according to an advertisement in the July 11, 1896, issue of the Manitou Springs Journal.
Miramont was vacant from 1900 until 1904 when the Sisters were urged by a Dr. Geierman to purchase Miramont for use in conjunction with German priest Sebastian Kneipp’s (pronounced Ka-nipe) water therapy system, which consisted of drinking prodigious quantities of Manitou's mineral waters, as well as bathing in them several times each day. It was never used as a Kneipp center, however.
In 1907 an electrical fire destroyed Montcalme sanitarium, which was located where our upper parking lot is now, and the Sisters moved their patients into Miramont where they served for the next 20 years. For the prior three years changes had been made to the building to accommodate patients during their treatment period, but it was utilized only during the summer. It became known as Montcalme Sanitarium to keep the familiar name.
By 1928 it became economically impossible to continue with the sanitarium, and the Sisters used the building for a short time as a boarding house for the wealthy, then as a vacation and retreat house for clergy, and eventually vacated. It stood empty until it was sold in 1946 to private owners.
Located on the far back corner of the upper parking lot is the last remaining TB hut original to the Sisters of Mercy, where patients who required isolation lived during their stay for treatment.
Jean Baptiste Francolon...
The founder of the Castle.
A Catholic priest born in France, in 1854, Father Francolon was the son of a wealthy, aristocratic family. His father was a diplomat and at one time was the French consul in what is now called Moscow.
He came to the United States in 1878 when he was 24 years old as secretary to Bishop Lamy, in Santa Fe, and after ordination was in charge of several missions in the parrish of Santa Cruz to the indigenous peoples. There was much unrest between the old Spanish Catholic Church and the incoming French Catholic Church, and Fr. Francolon was extremely unpopular, even to being poisoned in the chalice.
In 1892, he came as a missionary priest to Manitou, already famous for its healing waters and clean air, in hopes of restoring his failing health. His mother arrived in Manitou from New Mexico in July 1893, bringing four French-speaking servants, because, it is said, she did not speak English.
Newspaper descriptions of the furnishings, tapestries, oils, statuary, antique vestments and laces, and native artifacts, which were displayed in the gallery on the third level, indicate that the family had indeed been wealthy, although recently-translated letters of Father’s allude to financial losses prior to coming to Colorado. This could explain why the Gillis brothers had to sue him for payment for their work, and why Fr. Francolon took out a loan on the property to obtain the funds.
Fr. Francolon had a reputation for being a loner and unpopoular with the local residents, although he did have two fundraising balls in 1897, one for a library and one for the poor.
The Francolons left for France unexpectedly in 1900, taking valuable artwork with them but leaving their furniture, and Madam Francolon died within a few months. Fr. Francolon spent his last ten years in New York, died December 4, 1922, and is buried in the Archdiocese Cemetery. He never returned to Colorado.
The property on which Miramont Castle is located is part of a parcel of land whose earliest deed dates back to 1862, and was once owned by one of Colorado's most controversial citizens, Colonel John Chivington, who commanded the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. Records show he sold the land in 1867 through his son-in-law, who had power of attorney, but he later filed suit claiming that he had not given the power of attorney. The case was decided against him.
The Colorado Springs Company, founded by General William Palmer, is listed on the deeds from 1871 until 1882, when it sold the property to the City of Manitou.
Fr. Francolon had collected architectural ideas from his early years of travelling the world with his diplomat father, who served as his own architect. The Gillis brothers, Angus and Archie, were contractors of the Castle, and according to a daughter of Angus Gillis, Fr. Francolon sat at a table in the Gillis home for countless hours while his plans were described in detail for the builders.
William Frizzell, like the Gillis brothers, came from Nova Scotia, and was a versatile entrepreneur. He and his sons had cleared land for horses, built roads, and constructed the stone arch bridges over Ruxton and Fountain Creeks. They quarried and hand cut the native green sandstone for Miramont's two-foot thick walls.
Construction began in the fall of 1895. The Manitou Springs Journal reported progress on the construction in its issues through the spring and summer of 1896, in November proclaiming it to be "one of the handsomest and most artistic buildings in Colorado." The east section began in 1897.
Miramont, which means "look at the mountain," had indoor plumbing and electricity when it was built, as electricity had become available in the late 1880's when Angus Gillis built El Paso county's first electric generator in Manitou for Dr. Isaac Bell.