Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Solomon's Castle

Solomon's Castle. A shining tribute to one mans imagination.
There is a castle in the center of Florida.
It has a moat and turrets and unique stained glass windows.
There is a lighthouse in the moat and a bridge, through a ship that is a restaurant.
Did I mention that the castle is in a swamp?
The 3 story 12000 square foot shining structure is the creation of one man, Howard Solomon, an internationally recognized artist and sculptor.

Mr. Solomon hadn't intended to be the butt of a joke by buying swamp land in the middle of Florida.

He bought the lush woodland during a dry spell. When he came back with his family to build his home Howard discovered that there wasn't enough high ground to construct the sprawling home that he had envisioned so he built a levee to control the water in Black Creek then
started with a small footprint and went vertical.
Stained glass windows in the castle walls.
Howard Solomon invented his house using home grown skills and other peoples junk.  Unfettered by conventional building styles and materials he created a unique and whimsical place to live.

Approaching the castle is quite an experience. It's gleaming 3 stories can be blinding on a sunny day. The exterior walls of the Medieval style castle are covered in shiny silver metal that used to be offset printing plates discarded by a local newspaper.

Dragon window of reclaimed stained glass.
What looks like riveted steel from a distance is actually those aluminum plates attached with roofing nails. There are stained glass windows on every side and each wall of the castle has windows depicting a specific theme.
There are 9 planet windows arranged in order of their distance from the sun, there are 12 zodiac windows.
We saw windows representing nursery rhymes and ones that depicted the 4 virtues:

Throughout our tour of the home and gallery the guide was happy to point out the quirky materials used by Mr. Solomon in the construction of the house and also the design of his artwork.

One of the dozens of train cars designed by Howard Solomon

Referring to Howard as the "Savior of Salvage" the Rembrandt of Reclamation" and the DaVinci of Debris" our tour guide pointed out aluminum cans, oil drums, bicycle gears, coat hangers, and sea shells used in unique ways.

The beginning of the tour lead us through 3 gallery rooms. Mr Solomon demonstrates a love of the ridiculous in the punny way he names his art pieces.
Guarding the gate of the castle are 2 suits of armor. One is painted black, the other white. They are Knight and Day.

Jeb the Bushman
A not quite life sized statue of and elephant is called Jeb the Bushman. It is constructed of oil drums and has clam shells for toenails.
A sculpture of a race car has a V-8 engine. Yes it really does.
There is artwork large and small. Some are freestanding and life size, some so tiny that dozens fit on a small shelf. Chess boards, trains, animals, and carousels made of wood glass and metal. The variety is astounding. I don't think the man ever slept.

The stained glass windows are beautiful seen from  indoors with the sunlight behind them.
The castle has 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. It even boasts and elevator that runs of a car battery.
Our tour took us through the house and back outdoors to the moat where the Boat in the Moat, a 60 foot replica of a Spanish Galleon, serves as a restaurant that seats 250 people.
Near the boat is a lighthouse.
Made of balsa wood.
Because its a light house.

At the end of the tour you are invited to stay for a meal and to walk around the grounds and gardens.
If you decide to explore you will come across a replica of the Alamo complete with a Come and Take It cannon and bowling ball cannon balls. You will pass sheds full of future building materials and you may be lucky enough to be visited by a castle cat.

A replica of the Alamo on the castle grounds
Solomon's Castle is located in the south central community of Ona in Hardee County. We drove through miles of farm country roads past orange groves, swamp land and cattle ranches following tiny hand lettered road signs that pointed the way to Solomon's Castle.
Take your sense of humor and a love of the absurd and ridiculous with you or don't bother to go.

Howard Solomon died in 2016 at the age of 81. His family is preserving his legacy and plan to keep  Solomon's Castle open to the public.

Solomon's castle
44533 Solomon Rd
Ona, Florida
open 11-4 Tuesday-Sunday
closed July through September

Castle cat

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