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Solomon’s Castle Ona, FL – A Must Visit! Artist Howard Solomon's Quirky Castle and Gallery is a National Treasure, proclaims Mod B!

Posted on: December 21, 2016


  • address: 4533 Solomon Rd, Ona, FL 33865
  • phone: (863) 494-6077
  • Other Contact Methods: Pony Express, Mule Train, Camel Caravan, Homing Pigeon, Marathon Delivery and shouting very loudly ;-)
  • web: http://solomonscastle.com/
  • Note: Cash only, Open year ‘round except for August and September Closed Mondays

Reflecting on the wonderful and wondrous places we’ve visited this past year, one shines brightly in our memories – Solomon’s Castle in Ona, Florida (about an hour east of Sarasota).

Not only because it is covered in reflective silver metal sheets (reclaimed printing press plates!) but also that it exists for all of us to enjoy because of the vision of its creator, artist Howard Solomon.

Solomon's Castle - Howard Solomon - Ona, FL Florida - Retro Roadmap

Sadly,while researching for this writeup we discovered that Howard passed away in August of 2016, aged 81. We feel all the more lucky that we unexpectedly met him in the gift shop of the castle while waiting for our tour.
had we realized at first that we were chatting with the actual artist himself we would have been a lot more flustered I admit! But we soon figured out who he was as he described, with a humorous glint in his eye belying his deadpan delivery, some of the little sculptures he had for sale.

Solomon's Castle - Howard Solomon - Ona, FL Florida - Retro Roadmap

Noticing a hand hewn wooden sculpture with the letters I and T on it, I could not figure out what it was? The IT department? Next to the HR department? Obviously I sadly had spent too long in corporate America.

“That’s It” Solomon stated, deadpan. “You can put It here, or put It there, move It around…”

Smitten with his answer, we purchased It and now It is in our kitchen, reminding us of how we got It. I’m sure Howard would love that we often look at It and remember our exchange with him. (The HR was H and R “Block”.)

Ever the lover of a pun, I had no idea that this sense of humor would run rampant throughout Howard’s artwork and gallery, making it that much more enjoyable (or groan-inducing to some fuddy duddies on our tour) to visit.

Howard started building his castle in 1972, as a living space and a gallery for his sculptures but it has since expanded across his acres of Florida swampland. To keep up with the gawkers and curious folks like us, the whole family and then some now work conducting the tours, working the gift shop, cooking in the restaurant and more. Heck, even the cats are part of the act!

Solomon's Castle - Howard Solomon - Ona, FL Florida - Retro Roadmap

His “outsider artwork” sculptures are just as clever and unique as his sense of humor, crafted from discarded parts of other machines, trash and found items and reinvented cleverly into artwork.
Solomon's Castle - Howard Solomon - Ona, FL Florida - Retro Roadmap

A tangle of wire coat hangers becomes a giraffe, bicycle chain is transformed into an Egyptian headdress for Liz Taylor and colored bits of reclaimed glass become more than 80 stained glass windows for this never-rusting castle.

The talent and imagination, inspiration and hard work it took to create the hundreds of pieces of artwork is positively inspirational. To not only have the vision to see the creative possibility in items that other less imaginative people have discarded but then to be able to figure out how to transform them into artwork that everyone can enjoy, that is a rare gift. Thank you Howard.

Solomon's Castle - Howard Solomon - Ona, FL Florida - Retro Roadmap

But that’s not all! To feed the hoards of folks like us who show up in the middle of nowhere swampland to gawk at his quirky compound, Howard also built the “Boat in the Moat” a ship shaped restaurant for folks to enjoy a meal before or after their tour.

Solomon's Castle - Howard Solomon - Ona, FL Florida - Retro Roadmap

Also, plan to spend the day at the Castle, as the grounds are open for you to explore the nature walks. And take a look at where the magic happens/happened in his workshed. You’ll pass by a replica of The Alamo (no basement, natch) and if you take a closer look you might just spy a Moai just past the cannonballs that look suspiciously like bowling balls. I’m getting glimpses of the decorating choices here at the Hacienda yard already!

Solomon's Castle - Howard Solomon - Ona, FL, Florida - Retro Roadmap
While it is with heavy heart I share with you Solomon’s Castle, Howard’s family is still carrying on the family tradition of keeping it a destination for us all. I most definitely and wholeheartedly encourage you to check it out for yourself, as unique places like this are becoming more and more rare as the years pass.

There is no way that a few words and snapshots can convey the depth of talent and humor and joie de vivre you’ll get from visiting it in person. And that’s no joke!

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