Coral Castle

Coral Castle is always listed in the “Top 35 out of 35,000 museums across the U.S.” to visit and people come from as far away as Indonesia to visit this incredible place. It’s also one of the Wonder’s of the World.”

The castle and its surrounding gardens were built by Edward Leedskalnin (1887–1951), a stonemason from Riga, Latvia. At the age of 26 Leedskalnin was rejected by his fiancée, a sixteen year old Agnes Skuvst, she broke off their engagement the day before the wedding. Leedskalnin was heartbroken and he set out on a quest to build a monument worthy of celebrating his lost love . He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and headed for the warmer climate of Florida, that is where it all begins.

He settled in Florida City in 1918, and began work on what he called his ‘Rock Gate Park’ sometime around 1923. With no modern construction tools or conveniences and equipped with only hand tools and a fourth grade education, he quarried huge blocks of coral rock before cutting them to shape and arranging them into position. And later, in 1936, Leedskalnin moved to Homestead where he purchased a plot of 10 acres and spent the next three years relocating, a distance of some 10 miles, using a friend’s tractor to transport each of his coral structures. Using no joint compound or mortar, the massive stones, when combined together, are held in place by their own weight. More incredible, he did all of this hard work by himself and he was was just five feet tall and weighed about 100 pounds.

Once we got inside the Castle we were amazed at what we saw! It was a fortress, a playground with incredible pieces of coral shaped into different things, a rock garden of sorts. ED single-handedly and mysteriously excavated, carved, and erected over 2.2 million pounds of coral rock to build this place. The walls alone, 8 foot high by 4 foot thick, weigh 58 tons per section. Each block around the park weighes an average of 15 short tons, and as much as 30 tons for the larger items – while some of the taller columns measure anything up to 25 foot in height.

This 9-ton stone gate  was built and installed by Ed at the turn of the 20th century,one finger could open it.  It stopped working in 1986. In order to remove it, six men and a 50-short-ton (45 t) crane were used. Once the gate was removed, the engineers discovered how he had centered and balanced it. He had drilled a hole from top to bottom and inserted a metal shaft.   Leedskalnin did this all by himself.

Lounge chairs he carved for a family he would never have. He carved a total of 25 rocking chairs from a single piece of coral that set with smooth, curving tracks beneath to allow for a gentle rocking motion. One of these – apparently, his favorite – was positioned up high, offering a panoramic view over the park. Now called the Billy Idol Chair
The mans, womens and childrens chairs
The beds with a crib on top.
Ed’s bath that he carved. He’d fill it in the early AM and it would be warm by mid day.

These pictures are of Ed’s well. He of course dug it, carved out stairs and also used the well for his refrigerator. In the last picture he used a round piece of coral to stop the children for going down the well. It could be rolled with just a slight nudge.

These 2 pictures are of Ed’s cooker. He built the cooker with old truck parts. He used this to cook chicken and hot dogs.

He would create a fire in the pit, and insert the food into the slits. It’s an air tight, which cooks the food faster and will prevent it from splattering all over the place.

Moon pool he carved the inner circumference of the circle like teeth of a gear.

Ed’s heart table is called “The Feast Of Love” table. “Ripley’s believe it or not” has awarded this table the “heaviest valentine” on earth, it weights 2½-tons.

A 30-ton lensless “telescope” that soars 25 feet above the castle walls. The telescope is perfectly aligned to the North Star, and on the first day of winter, sunlight pours directly through the scope’s opening.

Ed’s sundial can tell the time of day and also determine the seasons.

 A table in the shape of Florida that is geographically correct with an 8-inch indentation representing Lake Okeechobee that is filled with water.
Did he even have a map?

Billy Idol wrote the song “Sweet Little Sixteen” after watching “The Castle of Secrets”, an episode of Leonard Nimoy’s program, In Search of , which was based on Coral Castle. He visited Coral Castle and sat on Ed’s favorite rocking chair. The music video was shot there as well.

The Planets from the far corner is Jupiter, Saturn, and the Crescent Moon (what Ed called the “Crescent of the East.”)

Jupiter, Saturn and the moon from blocks weighing as much as 23 tons

Ed’s living quarters

Up the stairs is Ed’s bed & kitchen

The green doors on the ground are where he kept his tools

Ed’s rustic house

Behind the walls of the castle

Around 1940 Ed finished erecting the walls (the largest weighing 29 tons) of his coral castle. The gates to the castle were locked at all times but Ed would give tours of his home for a  fee  of 10 cents, he later raised it to  25 cents,  and those who wanted to have a tour had to ring the bell twice to summon Ed. The sign on the wall says “Ring Twice” and if your rang less or more than two times Ed would not open the gate to let you in. Ed would love to have children visit his castle and show them around.

He would show you the 8-ton gate that a child could push open with a finger. And would tell the story of his lost love as he showed you a telescope that points to the North Star, carvings of stars and planets and an accurate sundial and his other creations.

The castle has been on TV shows and various documentaries because nobody really knows how he built the castle? Here the question arises- how could a man using only hand-made tools, attained this height? The answer to this question is still unknown.

Ed was a very private person, and his methods were a closely guarded secret. In 28 years he refused to allow anyone to watch him work – carving the stones by night with a lantern, while a series of lookout posts along the castle walls provided an extra defense against prying eyes.  He used only tools that he fashioned himself from wrecks in an auto junkyard.

Some of his neighbors who took it upon themselves to have a peek one night, said that Leedskalnin placed both palms on a block of stone and started to sing and the slab reacted by levitating. For obvious reasons, many people have dismissed this claim.  Leedskalnin even told people that he had an in-depth understanding of the laws of gravity, leverage and weight and that he had “discovered the secrets of the pyramids,” implying that magnetism was used by the ancient Egyptians to construct the Great Pyramids. And of course some say it was aliens that helped him.

However, all these theories could it have just been the fact that a human being, when set their mind with a steady focus and powerful motivation, can attain anything. Even if the story of its creation doesn’t wow you, it’s hard not to be impressed when you see Coral Castle up close. Given the primitive tools that were available at the time it was constructed, even the most skeptical visitors will be a little dazzled.

Edward Leedskalnin died in the winter of 1951, aged 64. He closed the castle with a sign that read, ‘Going to the Hospital,’ then took a bus into Miami. He wouldn’t return – first suffering a stroke, before later dying in the hospital from a kidney infection.

Coral Castle stood the test of time, being hit by hurricanes and neglect, so glad we got to see this incredible place.

Ed & Me

2 thoughts on “Coral Castle

  1. Sandy

    Wow. Such an oddity. Wouldn’t you just love to have met someone like that to find out what he was really like? To find out how his mind works? I’m not sure if I would admire or fear him. Haha. Great writeup. You two should seriously consider writing a travel book. 🙂

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