The Story of Florida’s Coral CastleEgypt has pyramids, England has Stonehenge, and Florida has the Coral Castle. The construction of them all is shrouded in mystery but fortunately, the tools and original equipment used in constructing the Coral Castle is still available to view. You can also learn the intriguing story of Edward Leedskalnin, the man who single handedly carved and assembled the castle.
From 1923 to 1951, Edward Leedskalnin worked alone and secretly carved over 1,100 tons of coral rock. Physicists and scientists have debated his mysterious process for decades, proposing ideas from temporary levitation to advanced engineering. To appreciate the beauty and significance of the structure, open 7 days a week as museum in Homestead, we need to go back to beginning before the first stone was cut.
About Edward Leedskalnin
Edward Leedskalnin was born in Riga, Latvia on August 10th, 1887. When Ed was 26 years old, he became engaged to marry his one true love Agnes Scuffs. Agnes was ten years younger than Ed and he affectionately referred to her as his “Sweet Sixteen.” Unfortunately, Agnes canceled the wedding just one day before the ceremony.
Heartbroken, Ed set out on a lifelong quest to create a monument to his lost love that has become one of the world’s most remarkable monolithic accomplishments, known as the Coral Castle. With no outside assistance or large machinery Ed single-handedly built the Coral Castle, carving and sculpting over 1,100 tons of coral rock, as a testimony to his lost love, Agnes.
What makes Ed’s work remarkable is the fact that he was just over 5 feet tall and weighed only 100 pounds. In this part of Florida, the coral bedrock can reach up to 4,000 feet thick. Incredibly, he cut and moved huge coral blocks using only hand tools. Leedskalnin had acquired some skills working in lumber camps and came from a family of stonemasons in Latvia. He drew on this knowledge and strength to cut and move these blocks.
Ed moved to Florida in 1918 and lived in Florida City until about 1936. He lived a very simple life; he did not own a car. Instead, Ed would ride his bicycle 3.5 miles into town for food and supplies on a regular basis. He was a very private person and when he heard about a planned subdivision being built near him he decided to move to Homestead, buying 10 acres of land in 1936. He spent the next three years moving the Coral Castle structures he had already begun to build from Florida City to Homestead, which was 10 miles away.
Mysterious Lifting of the Stone Elements
How did Leedskalnin move all these coral carvings across the 10 miles distance? Ed had the chassis of an old Republic truck on which he laid two rails. He had a friend with a tractor move the loaded trailer from Florida City to Homestead.
Many people saw the coral carvings being moved along the Dixie Highway, but no one actually ever saw Ed loading or unloading the trailer. Ed did much of his work at night by lantern light and to help protect his privacy, he built numerous “lookouts” along the Castle walls.
In 1940, after the carvings were in place, Ed finished erecting the walls. The coral walls weigh 125 pounds per cubic foot. Each section of wall is 8 feet tall, 4 feet wide, 3 feet thick, and weighs more than 58 tons, more than the weight of 7 Elephants combined!
When questioned about how he moved the blocks of coral, Ed would only reply that he understood the laws of weight and leverage well. This was an impressive statement for a man with only a fourth grade education. Because there are no records from witnesses his methods continue to baffle engineers and scientists. Leedskalnin’s secrets of construction have been compared to similar structures such as Stonehenge or the great pyramids.
Features of the Coral Castle
The castle consists of a complete wall structure, with botanical features throughout the grounds. Numerous sculptures made of solid coral are spread across the internal space as if you are in a home. Beds, tables, a telecope and other features are placed in a way where they can be turned or rocked with one hand, even though their weight is enormous.
Leedskalnin’s workshop, complete with many of his tools and strange gadgets used in the construction of the castle are available for viewing. A coral staircase leads to the highest point in the facility, the home where Leedskalnin lived; All made of coral and minimal wood framing.
A walk through the workshop will fascinate your mind, as you picture the small stature of Leedskalnin, working with rudimentary tools to cut and shape the coral structures. Then you’ll notice the odd shaped sprockets and “flywheel” and begin to wonder how they played a part in the mysterious construction and elevation of the castle walls.
The Coral Castle was Edward Leedksalnin’s home and work place, he gave tours and mystified guests with the marvels he had created. There is an undeniable sense of his longing for the woman he almost married, back in his Latvian homeland. It appears he had built a castle for her, complete with a baby’s bed and other family oriented carvings, even though she never saw it or may not have known it existed. Historians speculated that she did not want to marry a man with no means to support her, and this reason for rejection had haunted Leedskalnin all the while he worked to build the castle that stands on Highway 1 in Homestead, Florida.
The castle is often spoken of with romantic favor, and has been used for many weddings and special events since the completion of its construction in 1951 to modern day.
Edward Leedskalnin’s life achievement, The Coral Castle, an undying testimony of his great love for Agnes Scuffs took him from 1923-1951 to complete. The work has been compared to the Taj Mahal, built over twenty years and by several thousand slaves, as monument to the King’s wife.
In Ed’s case, he labored intensely for twenty-eight years working alone on this astonishing masterpiece. Ed was a common man who touched the lives of all who met him in an uncommon way. Forever carved in stone, the Coral Castle is a timeless beauty that defines Ed’s undying love for his “Sweet Sixteen” and continues to astonish Coral Castle visitors.
In December of 1951 Ed became ill. He put a sign on the door of his Castle saying “going to the hospital,” took a bus to Jackson Memorial in Miami and died three days later in his sleep at the age of 64. After his death, a box of Ed’s personal effects was found containing a set of instructions that led to the discovery of thirty-five $100 bills, his life savings. Ed made a small living giving tours for ten and twenty-five cents, from the sale of his written works, and from the sale of the land where U.S. Highway 1 passes the Castle.
The only written records Ed left are five pamphlets that he wrote. “ A Book in Every Home” which contains Ed’s thoughts on 3 subjects – Sweet Sixteen, Domestic, and Political Views. He wrote 3 pamphlets on “Magnetic Current” and his “Mineral, Vegetable and Animal Life” contains his beliefs on the cycle of life. These pamphlets are available only in the Coral Castle gift shop.
Coral Castle Museum Location and Hours
Coral Castle Museum
28655 South Dixie Highway
Miami, FL 33033
Photos © Florida Russian Lifestyle Magazine