Tag Archives: art

Unique Florida: Solomon’s Castle

“A man’s house is his castle”

Florida, the land of retirees. Everyone dreams of retiring to the sunshine state and building their own castle made of aluminum in the middle of nowhere…oh wait, that was just Howard Solomon.

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While it may seem kitschy, it was built out of passion and love for art.

Using other people’s trash, he built a treasure for himself, and his art. The outer walls, made from the repurposed aluminum printing plate of the Wauchula news, shine in the sunlight. Printing plates were only used once and then discarded, but Howard Solomon saw a use for them when constructing his fortress. You can still read the Wauchula news on the backside.

Inside many of the art pieces were constructed out of old rusty gears, car and lawnmower parts and various other items you would most likely find in a junkyard, including beer cans which he crafted a chair out of, as well as various vehicles.

He was a master at recycling, that’s for sure. He couldn’t sit still and thus was always working on something to keep his hands busy, like the figurines below. He carved these while watching TV at night.

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My favorite part of the castle, the stained glass windows. You’ll find 80 throughout the castle.

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The picture window

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It was one of the most random places I’ve ever visited, but also fascinating and beautiful at the same time. The tour guides play up Howard Solomon’s “punny” humor throughout the tour and then encourage you to wander the grounds after. Like our guide mentioned, the area is a little behind the times, one thing that drew Howard Solomon to this part of Florida, also the fact that it was cheap. That being said, it’s peaceful, quaint and quite picturesque. There is also a restaurant adjacent the castle, The Boat in the Moat. Literally, it’s a boat in a moat, with its very own lighthouse.

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Tours are available October – June for $12.50 per person, but be sure to call ahead before making the trek. Dean will answer the call.

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Howard Solomon

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Solomon’s fencing behind me

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Havana’s oldest square, Plaza de Armas

Our trip down yet another colonial style alleyway led us from Plaza Viejo to Plaza de Armas (Square of Arms or Weapons).

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Along the route, we passed by Hotel Ambos Mundos. This hotel once welcomed actors, actresses, writers and many American tourists. It is highlighted on the tour, as it was home to author Ernest Hemingway for seven years. That’s right; he rented a room on the fifth floor for $1.50 per night.

Just think, if you were to visit Havana in the 1930’s, you probably could have spotted Ernest Hemingway stumbling down this alleyway after one too many mojitos.

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The tour continued to Plaza de Armas, the oldest and most important square in Old Havana.  In Colonial Days it was the center of political power.

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Tacón Street is the only remaining road in Havana with wood bricks. Originally the Governor’s home was located in  Plaza de Armas, and since the Governor and his wife were quite fond of their afternoon naps, wood was used to repave the original brick to dull the sound of passing horses and cart traffic.

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At the center of the square is a beautiful lush garden area, perfect for escaping the hot summer sun and people watch.

A white marble statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes stands in the middle of the garden. He was a Cuban patriot, initiator of the Ten Years War against Spanish colonial rule in 1868 and ‘Father of the Nation.’

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That bird seems quite at home on Carlos’ head. 

Across the road, we got a glimpse of the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, built in the 16th century as a way to defend the city from pirate attacks. It’s said to be the oldest stone fort built in the New World.

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The iron statue on top of the watch tower is known as La Giraldilla. It’s said to honor Havana’s only woman governor, who would spend hours watching the horizon waiting for her husband to return from an expedition to Florida.

img_7618That same statue is now the symbol of Havana and can be found on the Havana Club rum labels.

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We’ll get to try this rum a little later in the tour, but first, let’s go to church.  Plaza de la Catedral is the next stop.

 

 

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