When he moved from New York to Florida over 40 years ago, Howard Solomon took the saying “A man’s home is his castle” quite literally. The artist once known as “The DaVinci of Debris” spent a total of 12 years building a three-storey castle by hand, in the middle of a swamp.
Solomon began working on his unique castle in the 70’s, after he and his family moved to Ona, Florida. The original plan was to build a nice house on the piece of land he had bought in Hardee County, but after realizing the place was actually a big swamp, he decided to construct something high enough to resist any potential floods. He had always been fascinated with medieval castles and this proved to be the perfect opportunity to build his very own 16-century fortress, complete with a bell tower, moat and drawbridge. Howard worked on his architectural masterpiece on and off ever since 1972, and reckons he has spent over 12 years erecting the structure and covering it in aluminum plating, and an additional 4 years building a Spanish galleon in the castle moat. When he first started building his dream home, people thought he was mad, and wouldn’t even let their kids play with his, but over the last 40 years they’ve accepted him into the community, and Solomon’s Castle is now the most popular attraction in the area.
Photo: Sam Howzit
The 12,000 square-foot castle was entirely hand-built by Solomon, with metal scraps he got for free, discarded car parts from a junkyard and rebuilt machinery he bought for 10 cents on the dollar. It has several towers, gothic arches, double wooden gates, drawbridge, its very own dungeon and whatever castle elements you can think of. Only unlike any other medieval fortress ever built, this one is almost entirely covered in aluminum,making it difficult to look at on a sunny day. Originally, the place had a normal wooden exterior, but one day he got the idea of covering the walls with printing plates discarded by a nearby newspaper, which combined with the homemade stained-glass windows would really make it look like a castle fit for a medieval lord.
Photo: Buffy Paffenroth
76-year-old Howard Solomon and his wife Peggy live in this recycled castle, but after being showcased on CNN, “Extreme Homes,” and in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the place became somewhat of a tourist attractions, and they often open its doors to visitors. Guests can enjoy a meal at the castle’s 250-seat restaurant, spend the night in the east tower for $100, or just get a tour of the place. Weddings, car shows and all kinds of other events are regularly hosted at Solomon’s Castle.
Photo: Buffy Paffenroth