Solomon’s Castle is on my must-see list of Florida’s quirkiest places. Like many others on that list, it’s off the beaten path and getting there requires a bit of effort. We were staying in Sarasota a couple of years back when the brochure caught our eye. Shall we go? Why not? Early the next morning we headed east and eventually found ourselves in Florida’s rural heartland in search of the “town” of Ona. It was a hot sunny day during the off-season. Few travelers on the road. GPS was patchy at times; we worried a bit about getting lost, but fortunately, we found our way there.
Hardee County, in which Ona and the “castle” are located, probably hasn’t changed much in the last century. Its 1930 population of 10,000 has almost tripled; but that’s nothing compared to Lee County , which is where we live. Here the population has gone from roughly 15,000 to 620,000 during that same time span. Few contrasts could better reflect the great divide between the pace of life in Gulf coast towns and cities and inland areas such as this.
Solomon’s Castle was the brainchild of Howard Solomon, who died in 2016 of heart troubles. He was 81. Howard spent many decades commuting from his 55-acre property to his St. Petersburg cabinet-making and boat-building business to earn the money that fueled his creative passions. Why base himself in a place like Ona? The land was cheap, and there was plenty of it.
Photography is not permitted within the “castle,” but YouTube has footage of tours Howard used to give to visitors (see link below). You’ll quickly see why the folks behind the Weird US publication called him the “Da Vinci of Debris”. For a great article on Howard, click here.
From here on down, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Have a great weekend, everyone.