Friday, March 6, 2015

Solomon"s Castle

The day started well with a pancake breakfast at Hardee Lakes, prepared by Donna.
The plan was to visit nearby Paynes Creek State Historic Site after breakfast. This is the Visitor Center where we watched a video about the site's historical importance.
The events here occurred between the second and third Seminole Wars, a period of time when Seminoles were confined to a reservation in south Florida.
In 1849 the U.S. government built a store here at the northern boundary of the reservation, at an inland location where Indians coming to trade would not have to pass white settlements. On July 17, 1949, Indians attacked the store killing two and wounding another. One of the killed was George Payne, an officer in the U.S. army, and for whom the creek was named.
A replica of the store inside the museum/visitor center.
That event led to the building of a chain of frontier forts across Florida, and increased attempts to capture and relocate the remaining Seminoles to Oklahoma. Fort Choconikla was built here.
A trail leads to the site of the fort. No battle was ever fought here, and many soldiers were sickened and died from mosquito-borne diseases.
Sarah sporting her new sun hat as we prepare to walk to Paynes Creek.
Paynes Creek flows into the Peace River. There is a kayak launch in the park…a note for future reference.
Another trail leads to a memorial of the attack and the site of the store. It was 85 degrees and humid, so we decided not to do any more hiking here.
Instead we headed south to Ona, and another adventure to Solomon's Castle. This is the entrance road, located way out in the middle of nowhere.
Worthy of a write-up on Roadside America's website ( and definitely worthy of a visit.
Howard Solomon, a high-school dropout with an artistic, imaginative mind and a passion for building things bought this acreage in a swamp in the 1970s and began to build his dream. Every building and 1000s of pieces of artwork have been created by the 79 year-old artist He uses recycled wood, metal, steel, and has even created beautiful stained glass windows. Imagine the dream….
A wannabe comedy writer, Solomon's humor shows in all his works, in puns and a play on words. This is a flower bed along the entrance road.
All of his creations are made of recycled materials. The silver exterior of the castle itself is made of recycled aluminum printing plates once used for printing newspapers. Howard quips that the sides facing inward are filled with "old news."
This group is waiting for the next guided tour.
We decided to eat lunch first in the restaurant located in Solomon's "Boat in the Moat,"  a 60-foot replica of a 16th century Portuguese Galleon.
Walking the ramp to the boat.
Notice the anchor made with shovels…."for burials at sea."
Crossing the moat…Solomon's original stained glass windows are seen everywhere.
A glimpse into the galley. The restaurant is run by Solomon's daughter and son-in-law. Three generations of Solomons now live in the castle.
We decided to eat outside on the deck where there was a cool breeze.
Dell, Soos, and Donna look over the menu.
The lighthouse was built for overflow seating for the restaurant. Note the stained glass lighthouse windows.
A visit to the "Rooms to Go."
Dessert was noteworthy. Solomon's version of key-lime pie, "Lily Lime," made from limes grown on the property. 
After lunch, time for a tour of the castle, which serves as a gallery for over 1000 pieces of Solomon's artwork.
Some of the stain-glassed windows. This section was themed with nursery rhymes.
Another wall was planets.
In the back is a room which can be rented out overnight as a bed and breakfast.
The balcony where Solomon appears at times to speak to his subjects…on any subject.
And so he did appear, but not on the balcony.
He arrived in his chariot. Note the stained glass to the right….the four virtues.
Solomon painted the bricks on the road using a sponge on the end of a stick.
The two knights at the entry represent "knight and day."
Entry doors…we entered here to buy our ticket for the tour. $10 for adults, children $4.
The floor "tiles" were similarly painted on the concrete…no grouting necessary.
This entry mosaic was created using leftover tiles from the bathrooms.
Yard art made from found objects.
The tour begins in the galleries.

The car lights were made from floor lamps. 
Hard to see, but behind the partition are sculptures made from wire coat hangers.
You can make out the giraffe on the right. 
Detail right down to the long eyelashes. 
The original "flower child." 
The fish that got away. 
The guide, Soos, Dell, and Carol. 
Tortoise and the "hair." 
Where's Waldo?
If you didn't notice him there, later on in the tour you get another chance. 
This corner was dedicated to trains. 
Train on time... 

Several of his pieces and montages were his reproductions of other famous artists' work. These were from Norman Rockwell's saturday Evening Post covers.

"Walking to Church" montage. 
Note the three-dimensions. 
This motorcycle was made from parts of a corn husker….Solomon named it "Evil Kornevil."

His beer can era... 

The tuna can band, playing the "Flight of the Bumblebee." 
It said picture yourself on a sailboat….so I did. 
The elephant and a lion on the left were made from pieces of oil drums welded together. The elephant's toes are seashells, and the tusks are manatee ribs. 
The piano man. 
The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. She's "lightheaded." 

A montage of the castle. 
A self potrait…pretty accurate don't you think? 

The hole is for….whole milk! 
The "Wrong" Brothers... 
Here we are priveleged to enter Solomon's private residence in the castle. The stained glass in the stairwell is called "Red Sails in the Sunset." 

The guide explains the stained glass and other works of art. In the hallway in the back she explains is a "plane wall." What she means is it is decorated entirely with "planes," as in planing tools. My battery died before I got a better shot of that. 

The four seasons... 
There are two panels of stained glass in the kitchen representing the arts. You can see one panel to the left of the working elevator the guide is showing. 
Hope you enjoyed this whimsical tour as much as I did.

Artist Howard Solomon



  2. What a really unique place to visit. Looked like a lot of fun.


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