Always wanted to live in a cave? This house is for you

Zillow Gone Wild — one of my favourite Twitter accounts — posts some pretty amazing (and weird) homes, but this one really takes the cake: it is built into the side of a mountain, and is connected to a chain of caverns that the ad refers to as the “Cave of Chimes,” which appears to be part of Iron Mountain, near Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Most of the house is built into a wide opening in the rock face that looks out over a canyon.

According to the real estate listing, the owners of the home have lived in it for four decades! It’s not clear exactly how you get to the home, but it appears to involve climbing down through the caverns and passageways. How they got modern appliances and construction materials into this place, let alone a pool table, is unknown. Also unknown is whether it leaks water, as many caves do — this article about a similar cave home in Arkansas notes that the ceiling leaks, but it tries to make that sound like a feature! Anyway, it’s all yours for just $2.45 million. There’s a 3D walkthrough here.

I tried to figure out who the current owners are, but I didn’t really get very far. Someone in the Zillow Gone Wild thread noted that there’s a newspaper clipping in one of the shots with an image of someone and a dog in front of a cave opening. I couldn’t make out much of the printing even by zooming in, but someone else came up with a copy of that image from Getty Images — it says it’s someone named Jacques Claudon, from 1981. The Denver Post archives don’t go back that far, and I didn’t feel like paying for an archive account.

I couldn’t find many mentions of someone named Jacques Claudon from the Glenwood Springs area, except for a high-school yearbook — and a notice of a legal easement that was granted to Jacques Claudon, which appears to give him and his wife Celina and an entity called the Chimes Investment Club LP the right to use a roadway belonging to a corporation called POW Inc. and one called Glenwood Caverns Inc.

Further research showed that the mountain the home is built into is also home to something called Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, which includes cave tours and a gondola to get to the peak. The caves were discovered by Charles Darrow in the 1890s, Glenwood Springs became one of the first cities in the US to get electric lights, in part because Darrow wanted to light up the caverns. His sons operated the caves as a tourist destination until 1915.

Pete Prebble, a local caver who wanted to explore the caverns, bought the property in the 1960s but kept it private and owned it through an entity called POW Inc. There are a number of local government documents that list Jacques Claudon and his wife as owning a neighbouring property to the park (it looks like they also sold a piece of property to the park for $300,000). In 1998, Steve and Jeanne Beckley — whose first date consisted of climbing through the caverns — convinced Prebble to let them open the caverns to tourists again, and they bought the property in 2002.

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