Solomon's Castle, about 7 miles south of Ona, FL, grew out of the imagination of an eccentric artist. The internationally known artist and sculptor, Howard Solomon.
Howard Solomon is soft-spoken man -- a sculptor with muscular arms and an unfinished high school education. "I hated school. My teachers told my parents I was borderline retarded." One day when he was 17 and his folks were at work, he ripped the back wall off their new suburban home and began adding on porch. "I found that I really enjoyed building things on a grand scale." Now Solomon's parents live in a back room of their son's home, which happens to be a castle in a Central Florida swamp.
Solomon's Castle covers 12,000 square feet and stands (at the moment) three stories high. It's impossible to photograph in the blinding Florida sun, as Solomon has covered every exterior surface with discarded aluminum printing plates. The broad, sweeping Yellow brick walkway that leads to it is impressive, until Solomon points out that the "bricks" have simply been painted on poured cement. He laughs as he demonstrates crude, handmade stamp he used; the whole process only took a couple of hours. Whereas other men fight and die for their castles, Howard Solomon fights to keep from laughing at it. He did the same think inside the entry way to emulate hexagon tiles.
Solomon began building his castle in 1972. He had moved back to the States from the Bahamas looking for a quiet place to work, and found it in a Central Florida swamp. But when he discovered that the land he'd bought didn't have enough high ground to build the horizontal building he wanted, he decided to build vertical. "I never was a very good planner," he admits. "I decided, 'Well, if I'm gonna go up, I might as well pick a style'."
Essentially, the castle serves as an exhibition gallery for several hundred pieces of Solomon sculpture; "The ones that didn't sell," he explains.
The tour guides gives a scripted tour written by Howard Solomon of his work, the most grueling aspect of an otherwise enjoyable visit ("I wanted to be a comedy writer," he admits). A gun that shoots toilet plungers is used "for flushing out perpetrators." The "Car With a V-8 Engine" has a power plant made out of you-know-what cans. We'll leave it to you to visualize what "Gnome on the Range" and "Holy Mackerel" look like. Solomon keeps busy adding on to his grand creation.
He built a "Boat in the Moat," it is a 60-foot replica of a 16th century Portuguese Galleon that serves as the castle's restaurant. "We don't want it to be a huge success," he explains. "I don't want to get stuck in the kitchen."
He has added a new building, a scale model of the Alamo.