Saturday, November 08, 2008
7 November 2008
As the brochure promised, in the middle of central Florida cattle and horse country, we did find a rather unusual castle. It is located in a low lying landscape and is not what one might generally expect in a castle. It is owned by an artist who specializes in objects made from scrap. All of his art and much of the castle is made from recycled materials. He does not sell the pieces that he creates but keeps them in the castle and charges us crazy tourists to take a tour.
This is totally a family operation with his daughter and son-in law, with the help of the grandchildren, running the onsite restaurant and gift shop and his significant other and himself handling the tours and various other duties. The castle sits on 100 acres that they purchased some years ago on a spring visit and did not find out about the flooding from the nearby river until their first summer rainy season. They smile and say there is still a mystery surrounding the disappearance of their former real estate agent.
The tour is filled with funny puns and stories of how the various pieces were created and where the scrap material came from along with how many oil barrels were used in the different items. The castle itself is a wood framed structure and its outer shell is totally made from used aluminum printing sheets from the local newspaper. It was noted that if these sheets were removed from the castle, it was like a time capsule of the local history on the reverse side where the news could still be read. The main rooms of the castle are used to display Howard Solomon’s art and some of that created by his friends. The remainder of the first floor contains the general living spaces of the artist, with a master and guest bedroom on the second floor. For those daring enough to spend the night in this remote and exotic place, there is a B&B room in the back of the castle.
There is a ship in a moat (restaurant) along with out buildings and a new project of creating a replica of the Alamo in San Antonio. You will have to ask Howard why. There are also a number of walking paths to enjoy the “estate”.
I need to explain the picture of the Red Hat Ladies group. As we were riding o
ut to the castle to be there at opening time ,we were (wrongly) wondering how few visitors they might get to this remote location. When we arrived, we found the 58 ladies waiting for their tour and were told yet another bus was due in a few hours. This immediately made me wonder how bad the economy really was and how bored so many people were. I had a great time chatting with these ladies and told them if they would pose for a picture, I would make them famous. This is the best I can do. In the end, while we were there, we shared the estate with at least several hundred people. On our tour, we were joined by a very nice lady, much older than me, who had spent 19 years as a missionary nurse in Africa and was now enjoying additional time in the sun in south Florida.
It is an unusual but fun place to visit and we had a very nice lunch under the old oaks.