Sunday, November 4, 2012

Solomon's Castle, Ona, Florida

This man settled in central Florida decades ago and loosed the inner demon in a way most of us can only dream of doing. His name is Howard Solomon and he built a ... castle.

It's a real home, the castle, outside the cell phone zone but inside the fantasy bubble of a married man with children and an impish imagination far outside the realm of the ordinary. His castle is his museum, a vast display case of three dimensional puns, literary jokes and recovered re-used artifacts to create the whole.

You can rent a room for $130 a night and stay here after everyone else has gone home. You can have lunch at the restaurant and you can walk the grounds. You can even try and have a conversation with the monosyllabic owner who is as remote as the proverbial Sphinx.

There's a boat in the moat which is where Howard's children feed you lunch heavy on the meat but delicious for carnivores like us. Don't bring credit cards, because like cell phones, they don't work here. If they banned smoking on the outdoor patio lunch would have been perfect on the cool sunny October afternoon.

We were at the castle on our third visit and the first tie we timed it right for lunch.

A bunch of riders from Daytona Beach were out on a sunny afternoon ride and we just beat the rush to find an outdoor table.

It's a long flat ride across Florida to get to this eccentric outpost.

The tour costs ten bucks per adult (no credit cards, remember?) and if I have to be honest I would have preferred to be allowed to wander and just look. Our guide was worthy of the tour though, a suppressed sense of humor expressed only by a long series of puns and quiet jokes too swift and too intricate for me to write down.


I did like the statue of Don Quixote heading back to the undefeated windmills, The Right Stuff.

Each piece made from reclaimed stuff has a story or pun attached. I photographed a selection to give an idea of the interior of the castle tour.



Napoleon's gun; or why he kept his hand in his coat.

The exterior of the castle is lined with reclaimed tin sheets and the windows blaze with Solomon's talents as a stained glass glazier.

It's a very personal creation, is this castle, incoherent and scattered but it evokes laughter with, not at, the artist's skewed vision of the world, and art and literature.

Considering how far inland this place lies, and the lack of other attractions one might be surprised that people would be willing to make the long straight drive through the cow pastures and orange groves.

And we were surprised by the size of the crowds, making us glad we left Ft Myers early and completed the 90 minute drive well before noon.


Not a bad way to make a living if you are willing to make it in the back of beyond.