Solomon’s Castle, West Central Florida’s most unique attraction
In the middle of Florida’s wooded swampland stands a 60’ tall aluminum castle, a Spanish Ship, and a lighthouse. This place is known as Solomon’s Castle. It is the legacy of one man’s 42-year labor of love and is one of the most unique attractions you can visit in west Central Florida.
In 1972, artist Solomon Howard purchased 40 acres of swampland near Ona, Florida. Howard was a sculptor who specialized in turning junk into whimsical pieces of art. For the next 42 years, until his death in 2016, he created his paradise.
Solomon’s castle was built using recycled items or as Howard called them “found objects”. It stands three stories, 60 feet tall and has 12,000 square feet of space. It took the artist 21 years to build his architectural masterpiece. The outside is covered in aluminum printing plates he got free from the local Newspaper company. The building is adorned with more than 80 stained glass windows. It has a turret with a balcony, and an electric elevator made from recycled items.
The castle served as the family home and Howard’s art studio for many years. Now it is a gallery of Solomon Howard’s art. The castle is filled with his work in an assortment of mediums from sculptures, painting, woodwork and anything else that suited his fancy at the moment. All of his artwork has something in common though: They are created from used items he has found and they are all humorous in some way. Solomon had a quirky sense of humor and it shows in his work.
The guided tour of the castle takes about 45 minutes and is entertaining. Using the script Solomon Howard wrote, the guides describe the hundreds of pieces of artwork displayed adding witty puns about each piece throughout the tour. There is no way to describe the eclectic array of artwork displayed in the castle. And since photos aren’t allowed inside the castle, no way to show you either.
But looking at the outside of the building, the property, and the surrounding gardens gives you a glimpse of what is inside the castle.
You see the creativity and resourcefulness of Solomon Howard as soon as you reach the entrance of the property. The handmade iron gates feature a king and queen sitting upon their throne. Metal bolts adorn the king’s crown. Bicycle chains are used for the hair and the belt on the king and to outline the queen’s dress.
A horse, who stepped into the wet paint as the “brick” walkway was being painted, faces the castle .
A knight stands guard at the castle’s entrance.
And what castle would be complete without its very own dragon?
In addition to the Castle tour, there is another gallery you will want to see. Gallery #2 features more than 70+ creations of the last decade of the artist’s life. Solomon Howard focused his final ten years on artwork relating to transportation. These creations along with his collection of automobiles, pre-dating 1935, are located in Gallery #2.
Boat in a Moat
After Solomon completed the castle, he added a moat and then built a 60’ replica of a Spanish Galleon, complete with three masts. It houses the Boat in the Moat Restaurant and serves a delicious lunch each day.
Be sure to add some extra time on your visit to have lunch at The Boat in the Moat. The restaurant is known for its delicious chicken pot pie, a favorite among visitors to Solomon’s Castle.
Lily Life House
The last building Solomon Howard built was the Lily Life House. The lighthouse by the moat has a pavilion that serves as extra dining space. It is adorned with stained-glass windows and has a beautiful view of Horse Creek.
Gardens, Horse Creek, & Nature Trail
The gardens on the property are beautiful. There is a nature trail that follows along Horse Creek. The trail is an easy walk and is peaceful and enjoyable.
Information for Your Visit
Solomon’s Castle is located about 45 miles SE of Bradenton, Florida in the little community of Lily, near Ona, Florida.
Solomon’s Castle is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. It is open from October thru July but is closed the months of August and September. Admission to the grounds and parking is free.
For ticket prices for the Castle and Gallery #2 tours and for more information on Solomon’s Castle visit solomonscastle.com
Looking for more unique Florida places? Check out the Wonder House in Bartow!