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Copenhaver Castle

Big, sprawling houses are the norm in the neighborhoods nestled in the mountains around 44th street and Camelback Road. But the house at 5050 East Red Rock Road is unlike any other in the area -- in fact, it's not so much a "house" as it is a big, Moorish castle fortress.

Known as Copenhaver Castle, this property was originally finished in 1977 for Phoenix orthodontist Mort Copenhaver. He purchased the five-acre property in 1967, and a plaque with that date is still carved into the cliff side along the house's narrow, steep driveway.

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From the outside, Copenhaver Castle is a marvel of architecture. The property sits high in the mountains, and is clearly visible from 44th street below. The red, hand-cut stones used to build the castle were taken from the mountainsides, and the property also features round towers and arched windows.

Before Dr. Copenhaver lost the house in bankruptcy in 1987, it was featured on the TV show This Old House with Bob Villa and was open for tours (after changing ownership several times, the castle is once again a private residence, and not open for tours). But during its house tour heyday, the interior of Copenhaver Castle was described as opulent: 7,000 square feet encompassing twenty rooms (including seven and half bathrooms), three garages, four fireplaces, ten balconies, a billiard room, a dungeon with a bar, and a spa big enough for 20 people.

Rancher Jerry Mitchell bought the castle from Chase Bank in 1989, and changed the decor from Copenhaver's medieval theme to a Western theme, filled with cowboy and Native American art. In 2005, the castle was purchased by Old Standard Life Insurance Company, which held a massive auction of the castle and its contents this past February. Names of bidders for the castle and their bids were not disclosed, but according to the most recent records at the Maricopa County Assessor's Office, the property is still owned by Old Standard.

There are no "for sale" signs outside Copenhaver Castle now, and the wrought-iron gate at the driveway entrance prevents people from accessing the property. But it's still worth a quick, drive-by look. After all, where else in Phoenix can you find a Moorish castle on a mountainside? 

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