Answer: You’ll have to read this Discover Small Town America Tour post to find out!
Rorie and Bart set out the other day for off-the-beaten-track destinations in interior Florida with several possible target locations in mind. Much to their joy, they unexpectedly discovered places that hadn’t been on their radar screen when the journey began. Their route took them to Zolfo Springs (pop 1,805), where Bart spied a sign for Pioneer Village park and the Cracker Trail Museum. After the dust settled from his really sharp left turn into the Museum parking lot, we toured the picturesque park and visited the museum. The Village has a cabin from 1879 with an adjacent outhouse (certainly too far from the cabin for Rorie to walk on a cold dark night), an 1897 blacksmith shop, an 1880’s reconstructed smokehouse, post office, work wagons and – every kid’s (little and big) favorite – a huge locomotive engine.
The actual museum building contains thousands of historic pioneer-era items and photographs. Judith George, the museum’s Curator, is a walking library of information about the museum and early pioneers in this area, and an enthusiastic champion of the Cracker Trail, Pioneer Village park and surrounding areas. For more information on this interesting piece of history, go to the Cracker Trail Museum website – www.hardeecounty.net/crackertrailmuseum.
After leaving the museum, we cruised down more country roads to the tiny town of Ona (pop. 314) in search of Solomon’s Castle, built by Harold Solomon, an internationally renowned artist and sculptor. Mr. Solomon started building the castle in a Florida swamp in 1972. This 12,000 square foot 3-story homage to recycling is Harold’s art studio and home. As astonishing as the inside of the home is, the exterior is positively quirky. Every square inch of the castle is covered with blindingly bright discarded aluminum printing plates. It looks like someone wrapped Disney’s Magic Kingdom in tinfoil.
The long, winding yellow brick walkway leading to the castle is another “brilliant” illusion. It actually isn’t brick, but rather poured concrete painted and stamped to look like the real thing. Stained glass windows, turrets, Solomon’s art and sculptures, extensive walking trails, a “boat in a moat” which houses a family run restaurant, a lighthouse and – of course- Harold, the king of the castle, along with four generations of his family, all make for the most remarkable, one-of-a-kind experience.