It's a castle with a moat, a boat and a lighthouse.
Howard Solomon bought 55 acres in Hardee County 32 years ago and built a most peculiar tourist attraction: a castle made from junk.
Solomon, now 69, built his stronghold using old aluminum newspaper press plates from the local newspaper and other materials some might call trash. The three-story structure includes a main entrance hall, several galleries, two towers and the family's living quarters.
Eighty works of stained glass adorn the windows, and the galleries are filled with Solomon's comical sculptures and quirky artistry.
One of the towers holds the Blue Moon Room, which Solomon rents out for overnight or weekend stays. A balcony overlooks the moat and is a perfect place to stargaze on clear nights.
The 60-foot boat that Solomon built is a replica of a 16th century Spanish galleon and serves as a restaurant. Lunch is available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Afterward, cross the drawbridge and take a walk along a nature trail deep in the heart of Florida's natural beauty.
Visit the gift shop in the castle. It's filled with Solomon's creations and other treasures from his long career as an artist and sculptor.
Solomon lives in the castle with his wife, Peggy. His daughter Alane and her husband run the restaurant.
_ MICHELLE JONES
WHERE: 4533 Solomon Road, Ona. Take Interstate 75 south to Exit 42 in Bradenton, head east on State Road 64 to County Road 665. Turn right on 665 and go south about 9 miles, turn left on Solomon Road and follow the signs. (863) 494-6077.
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Mondays and all of July, August and September.
COST: Adults $10, children age 12 and under $4. Group rates available.