Tipis are making a comeback as novelty homes

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Until people start living in caves again (not counting Osama bin Laden), the retro movement won’t have come full circle, but Richard Reese has people headed in that direction with his magnificent low-tech tipis, which he modestly declares are the “world’s best.”

Reese’s parents made tipis at their Salt Lake City awning business. When he retired from the military, Richard Reese started Reese Tipis in Colorado Springs. The company went from sales of about $45,000 to almost $1 million in just three years. The bottom line was augmented by sales to the Smithsonian, the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, and Hollywood and Canadian filmmakers.

The public recently got a look at his handiwork at Westfest, where several tipis were erected. Just as important to Reese as the handful of tents he sold at the Westfest festival is the $500 or so raised for Candlelighters of Southern Colorado. Reese donated a nine-foot tipi to be raffled, with the proceeds going to Candlelighters. It helps children with cancer and blood disorders.

The smallest Reese tipi is child-size, the largest is a family-sized unit with a 20-foot diameter. They cost from $300 to over $3,000.

Outside of novelty, static display and cowboy festivals and films, do people really use the pole and canvas creations?

“I am a wildlife biologist (who) lives months during the fall and winter in my tipi,” said Ralph Rogers. “While I have owned tipis made by several different sources, the Reese tipis are without a doubt the best made.”

The Montana-based Rogers said he is now erecting one in his backyard as a permanent guest house.

The tipis are made from heavyweight military-grade duck canvas, and the poles are hand formed from lodge pole pine imported from Montana. Colorado lodge pole pine are too thick, Reese said.

Full Circle Marketing and Design handles marketing duties for Reese Tipis. Full Circle’s Channing Meyer said while Native Americans and American legends such as Jim Bridger and Buffalo Bill made tipis their home, today they are just as often a fashionable retreat in which to entertain guests, teach yoga classes, or even to provide a unique living space in the backcountry.

At Cascade Escapes, a small town located between Colorado’s Rampart Range and majestic Pikes Peak, bed and breakfast owner Sandy Pennick set up a tipi to host people wanting a different outdoor experience.

If you’d like more information on tipis, consider a book written by Reese’s father. While one couldn’t say Frank Reese wrote the book on tipis, he did write a book. It is called The 20th Century Indian Tipi.

Reese tipis are featured in the films Windwalker, Grizzly Adams, and a National Park.

Service film called Washita.

For more information about Reese Tipis, call 719/265-6519, or check out its colorful and informational website at www.reesetipis.com.