Rising up from amidst the Florida swamp, glinting in reflected sunlight, and surrounded by its own moat, stands this magnificent medieval castle. Creator and artist Howard Solomon built the structure with his own hands in 1974, initially by using discarded aluminum plates from the printing press of a local newspaper. It has since evolved and now the castle is three stories high and covers 12,000 square feet.
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It has a courtyard that is packed with sculptures made from various found materials and scrapped automotive parts. The most recent addition to the courtyard is a 60-foot replica of a 16th-century Portuguese galleon, which also serves as the castle's restaurant.
While the castle and sculptures within encapsulate the artist’s almost childlike imagination, they also serve a more practical function as the castle is currently home to over four generations of Solomon’s family. When he acquired the land, he realized there wasn’t enough high ground to build the horizontal property he had envisioned, so instead he decided to build up. This is where his ingenuity came into play and he decided that if he was going to build up, why not build a castle? The concept may seem strange at first but the structure is solid and, for a mind like Solomon’s, quite easy to duplicate and understand.
When at school Solomon was labelled as “practically retarded,” so it goes to show how creativity and practicality can be neglected, or seldom recognized within the standardized system. He realized he had a flair for building and construction on a grand scale when he tore down the back wall of his parents’ house to build an adjoining porch; something I’m sure not many parents come home to.
The building more or less serves as an exhibition space for Solomon’s work and you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit and enjoy a guided tour by the man himself. He gives scripted tours of the property, its various exhibitions and features, and he packs the show to the turrets with punnery and humor. Solomon doesn’t take himself or his work too seriously and yet there is true artistry in everything he does; perhaps these two facts are interrelated.
A visit to Solomon’s castle is a trip that will delight, confuse, and pose just as many questions as it answers. It’s an oddity and a masterpiece, making the visitor question the child inside them. From the outside, the castle is a truly breathtaking sight and one that cannot be photographed properly due to the reflective aluminum plating. This means it's something that truly has to be enjoyed in the flesh. Inside, the decor and exhibitions continue to keep you guessing and trying to figure it all out has left many a tourist bamboozled. It’s as stupendous as it is stupefying.
You should plan a visit soon, as there is talk of Solomon putting the castle on the market for around $2.5 million; whether this is a PR bid or a genuine offer is unsure, but you wouldn’t want to miss out.