There’s a castle tucked away in downtown Denver that holds a deep history of entrepreneurship, death, and revitalization.
Denver’s Richthofen Castle is a German-inspired mansion built in 1886 for Baron Walter von Richthofen, a Prussian entrepreneur who sought wealth in the American west. Richthofen aimed to build a new suburban neighborhood in what was then Colorado countryside.
The castle was built with rhyolite, which is lava rock that was quarried in Castle Rock, and included a garden, greenhouse, stables, and a racetrack that Richthofen developed for his wife. At one point, he dug a moat around the property and later, established a tuberculosis treatment facility named The Molkery. The castle still stands today in Denver’s Montclair neighborhood as the private home of Jesse and Sylvia Jesperson.
Baron Richthofen died of appendicitis in 1889 and the castle was sold to Edwin Beard Hendrie in 1903. Hendrie disliked the castle’s medieval theme and had two Denver designers reconstruct the exterior and build a westwing. In 1910, Hendrie’s son-in-law moved into the castle and had Jules Jacques Benoit Benedict, a prominent architect of Colorado’s history, build a two-story southwing in 1924.
As with many old structures, this castle has a somewhat dark past.
In 1911, the castle became the site of a killing. Charles Patterson was a patient of Richthofen’s tuberculosis sanitarium and he was married to Gertrude Gibson Patterson. Gertrude was locally known as a beautiful woman. One day, she met him in the gardens of the Richthofen property and shot him multiple times in the back.
In court, Gertrude claimed that Charles had been violent and abusive toward her, but the prosecution argued Charles was on his hands and knees when he was shot. Gertrude was eventually exonerated after a single corroborative testimony from a stranger was given. No one is sure what happened to Gertrude after the killing, but some say she fled the country. Multiple stories exist regarding the future of Gertrude Patterson.
Between the castle’s eight owners over more than 100 years, stories of eerie happenings have been passed down. According to neighbors, phantoms are spotted in the castle tower, lights flicker, and anomalous figures are seen roaming the castle grounds. One of these figures has been described as a man wearing a surgeon’s mask, such as the kind worn during sanitarium functions years ago.
The Jespersons, who bought the castle in 2012, continue to find memorabilia within the castle grounds. They also managed to reunite the castle with its historic gatehouse, which was previously owned by someone else. While tours of the castle are not available to the public, rest easy knowing that the Jespersons continue to pour their time, care, and resources into making the castle liveable while keeping the historic aura intact.