Located at the top of a hilltop, this 175-foot high historical landmark offers a stunning view of Denver and the Front Range. The castle is located between West 83rd and 84th Avenue and east of Lowell Boulevard around Westminster.
As a result of its unique color caused by the red sandstone of the Red Rocks, locals refer to it as The Big Red Castle or The Pillar of Fire. It is worth a visit. From the top, it looks like a mare island. Additionally, it is valued as a historical landmark because of the medieval architecture and oriel windows that are rare to find these days.
This towering red sandstone structure was completed in 1893 by the New Yorker Henry T. Mayham. Westminster University led a rather short life as a Presbyterian school due to funding problems, world wars, and competition from other schools. When the surrounding town decided to incorporate in 1911, the town was renamed Westminster in honor of the university.
It took nearly 15 years for Westminster University to finally open. Its grand opening was postponed mainly because of a severe economic depression and a nearby Presbyterian college that was difficult to compete with. In the fall of 1908, it received its first incoming class of 60 students who paid $50 per year for tuition.
In 1920, the Bishop of the White Nationalist Pillar of Fire Church bought the castle. Having been abandoned for nearly three years, the property required significant repairs totaling some $75,000. These were completed just in time for the fall semester. It was reopened to students as Belleview Schools.
Six years later it received its education accreditation. The university campus often hosted Ku Klux Klan meetings and even cross burnings in the late 1920s.
The Westminster Castle has played an important role in the community since its construction. For many years, it was used by local businesses to host various events and meetings. It also housed a museum cataloging the history of the area, featuring artifacts such as old photographs, maps, and records of early settlers. Sadly, however, due to declining attendance and rising maintenance costs, the castle closed down in 2014.
Despite being closed to the public for several years now, many residents still remember fondly their experiences at the castle. Some recall attending special events there or simply enjoying a picnic on its beautiful grounds with family and friends. Today, the campus is still home to the Belleview Christian Schools and KPOF AM91 Radio, which broadcasts religious programming. The latter explains the rather large antenna to the southwest of the castle. The Westminster Castle also has been part of the National Register of Historic Places since 1979. There are efforts to restore and reopen the castle as a community space for residents to enjoy, as it continues to be a source of local pride and history in Westminster.
For now, while there are no tours of the buildings in Westminster Castle, it is worth a visit for the amazing view or to see the exterior made from Colorado Sandstone.
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