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Once Upon A Time

 Wednesday, April 15, 1998

As I was driving through Hardee Counnty, I came upon a castle - Solomon's Castle! What a wonder! What a delight! What a sight!

The Queen and Kings gates are made of discarded scrap iron, scavenged from southwest Florida junk yards, a marvel in design. The castle, a majestic architectural achievement, is big and shinny.

castle

 

The gates to Solomon's Castle add mystery and suspense to the tour.

It glistens, because the exterior is made from discarded, offset newspaper printing plates. It has a tower and more than 80 interpretive stained glass windows and countryard. The artist Howard Solomom, designed and built the entire phenomenon, with his own hands. Howard really knows how to recycle.

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Approaching the castle gives you just a peek at what is in store.

 

Walking down the painted yellow brick road, sculptures abound, a turtle here, a rodent there, a "moat tender", many cat statues and cannons made from irrigation pipe. Guarding the entrance are two knights, Night & Day, rescued from junk pile and restored.

Upon entering the castle, one's eyes are affixed upon many of Howard's creations including "a holy mackerel, a fish sculpture with holes, a wise old owl, a house for 25 skinny mosquitoes, a mute lute for people that don't like the sound of music but have a compulsion to strum," Ms. Peggy Solomon explained.castle

Whaala! Solomon's Castle dead ahead. Admission $7.50 for adults and $3 for children.

As you are escorted throughout the extensive galleries, the talented Solomon gives a narrative of each found object sculpture, with humor and wit. Situated within the castle is the family's moden living quarters and is a sight to behold - a marble floor, a "plane" wall, an elevator to the upper floor, a room built just for a chandelier and a stained glass studio to envey. The entrance door is a tribute to Howard's tenacity and talent. The East Wing is a luxurious suite, with overnight accommodations for one to four.

There is a nature trail nestled in the sylvan settings of Horse Creek, midst oaks and palmettos, with wildlife, and parodying sculptures. There is a bench, over looking a pond. Continuing down the path you cross a foot bridge to a moat. And there stands a 60-foot replica of a 16th century Spanish galleon, "The Boat In The Moat".

Renaissance Man, Howard Solomon, was four years in the building of this attractive, popular restaurant and gift shop. There is an outside deck, and if you are lucky you may spot the moat's resident alligator. Daily Lunches are available Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at $5.95. Kids meals for those 12 and under are $3.95. Special luncheon group rates are also available. They have old fasion drug store sodas, homemade desserts, apple crisp, walnut pie, cheese cake, sweet tooth fairy delights with hand dipped, real ice cream. They also serve sugar free desserts. Upon exiting the restaurant, be sure to view the wonderful mural on the Castle wall, the creation of the King of the Castle, Howard Solomon.

The castle and the stained glass windows are even more spectacular in the evenings. The grounds are adorned with tikki lamps. The sounds of the Florida swamp comes alive and the whole ambiance changes.

 

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night

Howard "King" Salomon with castle guard, "King Day".

Howard "King" Salomon with castle guard, "Knight Night".

 lion

Lion statues along the way guard the castle grounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

mural

Hand painted wall mural.

 

For a birthday, office party, anniversaries, reunions or meetings, the "Boat In The Moat" will open in the evening for parties of 20 or more. The King's Feast includes homemade lasagna, garlic bread or baked chicken with a rice dish, fresh vegetables and tossed salad. The Joker's Jubilee, includes barbecue ribs or chicken, sauteed new potatoes, baked beans, green salad. Both including homemade chocolate cherry cake, beverage, tax and gratuity. Also included is a nighttime tour of the castle and strolling musicians, all for $24.50. Call for available time. (941) 494-6077.

This operation is a family affair. Howard and Peggy Solomon share the castle home tour. They are equally clever and humorous with their presentation of the unusual sculptured wonders. Daughter Alane Murphy does the home cooking, son-in-law Dean Murphy is in charge of hte kitchen, and they share in menu planning. Granddaughter, Julie Solomon buses the dishess and waits tables.

Occasionally, they must call on Michelle Richardson to give them a hand, especially on the days when buses roll in. Howard's quest for solitude is now shattered, for his creations draw people by the bus loads (literally) to his front door. Close Mondays and during July, August and September.

For a vist, or lunch at Solomon's Castle, head for Arcadia, turn onto Route 70 the 661, you will find Solomon's Road. Therein lies the Castle, one of Florida's most unique experiences.

A television crew did a two-day coverage a couple of weeks ago, and it is scheduled to be aired on the Homes & Garden channel, April 19, at 8:30 p.m. For the Punta Gorda, Charlottee and Desoto counties, channel 20; for the Englewood viewing area, it should be chanel 41.

boat

The "Boat in the Moat" houses a restaurant.

 

any comments or questions, e-mail me at: maryjo@sunline.net e-mail ®

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