The following is an part of a trip report from News 13 travel reporter Scott Fais, who does daytrips in Florida on our local news channel. June 13 2007
Scott said:Our first stop: Solomon’s Castle. Be ready for a drive through vast territories where man has yet to build homes or fill the landscape with another strip mall. Manatee and Hardee counties sport a lot of orange groves and even more cattle pastures.
I questioned several times, “Who lives out here?” The answer: Not many who walk on two legs.
After what turned into more than a three hour tour, I discovered a unique place that
isn’t duplicated anywhere else. (Finding it can be hard. Just keep an eye peeled for
the hand painted signs. I missed several.)
ROOMS TO GO, click on photoHoward Solomon told me he was born an artist. This slender man can be found clad in his castle T-shirt and wearing a boat captain’s hat.
Howard’s touch is evident from the metal sculptures on front gate down to the hand painted
sign hanging above the restrooms that reads “Rooms to Go.”
After selling his art studios in Miami and the Bahamas at age 37, he came to this Hardee County swampland to build a home in the middle of nowhere. Yet, Howard corrected me and said his property is “in the middle of everywhere.”When he arrived, he built his house in the form of a castle,and covered the exterior walls with used printing plates from the The Herald Advocate newspaper in Wauchula, Florida.
The fortress shines like a mirror in the Florida sun (and acts like a magnet for visitors.) The windows, doors and even the flooring were made by Howard. Many of the materials came from items bound for the dump.Inside, you’ll find an art gallery brimming full of Howard’s creations,many dating back to the 70s. If you’re a lucky visitor, you may have Howard as your tour guide..
From the start, I learned real fast Howard’s other “gift” is comedy. His spiel is full of jokes and puns. Many of his pieces were created to reflect news headlines. From poking fun of the botched 2000 presidential election and high-profile court trials to mistakes by celebrities and popular literature,
Howard’s art is something to behold- since most of it was created from trash.
My favorite: The 6-foot tall elephant made from recycled oil drums. The kitchen tile came from a hotel restroom.
Cleopatra, made from lawn tractor.
The most bizarre item rests under our feet.In front of guests, Howard pulls back the carpet to reveal a trap door. Open it and find the castle dungeon. Staring back at us is the face of an older woman painted on what I believe is a coconut. Howard proudly tells the crowd,
“She’s the babysitter. When my kids were growing up, and they would misbehave, we would say,
‘You’re going to the babysitter.’”
Cleopatra's Barge, or half of it. The other half went to her husband in her divorce settlement. She did not care because she is in denial...
get IT? whoo boy.