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Cano’s Castle, a southern Colorado folk art landmark, is heavily damaged in fire

The castle’s two towers are still standing and Cano is safe, police say.

Cano's Castle, a hand-built folk art landmark in the San Luis Valley, was heavily damaged in a fire early on Jan. 13. (Courtesy Alex Ponce)
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A fire early Thursday consumed much of Cano’s Castle, a folk art landmark in Antonito near the New Mexico border, officials said.

Dominic “Cano” Espinoza, the castle’s builder, is safe, and no other injuries were reported, Antonito police officer Olga Cortez said. The cause of the fire remained under investigation Thursday morning. Espinoza could not be immediately reached for comment.

The fire, which broke out shortly after midnight in the small San Luis Valley town, mainly burned in a residence on the complex, Cortez said. The extent of the damage wasn’t immediately clear, but the castle’s two distinctive towers, dubbed the “King” and “Queen,” were still standing Thursday morning. 

Dominic “Cano” Espinoza’s house, adjacent to his folk art Cano’s Castle in Antonito, Colorado, burned on Jan. 13, 2022. (John McEvoy Special to The Colorado Sun
Dominic “Cano” Espinoza outside the residence, left, on the Cano’s Castle complex in Antonito, Colorado. The structure caught fire early on Jan. 13, 2022. Espinoza began creating the castle from native volcanic rock and aluminium cans in 1980. Cano Thursday morning. (Chris Lopez, The Alamosa Citizen)

Firefighters from Antonito, Romeo, Manassa and La Jara responded to the fire.

“It’s really sad to see,” Cortez said. “We’re just glad nobody was hurt and no other homes were destroyed.” 

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Espinoza, a Vietnam veteran who was born in the San Luis Valley, began building the castle in 1980, according to a 2015 profile in Raw Vision, an arts magazine.

The eclectic structures composing the castle complex are built of native volcanic stone and a variety of scavenged materials, and covered in the cut-off ends of aluminum cans. The towers rise over the east end of Antonito, the northern terminus of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. 

Dominic “Cano” Espinoza talks about how he discovered the residence at Cano’s Castle in Antonito, Colorado, was on fire early on Jan. 13, 2022. (Chris Lopez, The Alamosa Citizen)

Alex Ponce, who lives down the block from the castle, called the fire “devastating.”

“I’ve known Cano and that castle since I was little,” he said. “Cano’s a really nice guy. He comes out to visit with tourists who come to see it. This is a quiet little town, and it’s quite the attraction.”

Locals are already mobilizing to help Espinoza.

“Everyone here knows him and cares about him,” Ponce said. “We’ll do what we can.” 

Dominic “Cano” Espinoza outside the residence, left, on the Cano’s Castle complex in Antonito, Colorado. The structure caught fire early on Jan. 13, 2022. Espinoza began creating the castle from native volcanic rock and aluminium cans in 1980. Cano Thursday morning. (Chris Lopez, The Alamosa Citizen)