The mysterious Coral Castle in south Florida was built single-handedly by an eccentric loner named Ed Leedskalnin — a 5-foot-tall (1.5 m), 100-pound (45 kg) Latvian native. Ed was born in 1887, and at the age of 26 was engaged to marry a 16-year old Latvian girl named Agnes Scuffs. The day before the wedding young Agnes decided to cancel because she thought Ed was too old, or maybe she was in love with someone else. Heartbroken and alone, Ed left his beloved Latvia for the United States always thinking of Agnes as his “Sweet Sixteen.” With only a 4th grade education, he drifted from job to job until he came down with tuberculosis and moved to Florida for its favorable climate. During his travels he became interested in science, astronomy, and Egyptian history, spending most of his time reading books on magnetic currents and cosmic forces. Ed was a frugal man, collecting old mechanical pieces and saving money any way he could. Eventually he bought a 10-acre (4-ha) plot of land in Homestead and set about excavating, carving, and moving many tons of coral rock by himself. His monument would be devoted to his lost love, his Sweet Sixteen.
Ed’s coral carvings are symbolic of everything that mattered to him: love, astronomy, nationalism, family and magnetism. He created huge block walls surrounding a courtyard of theme tables and other whimsical stone attractions. Many people witnessed Ed hauling his original sculptures from Florida City to Homestead, but no one ever saw how he loaded or unloaded the trailer. He refused to allow visitors while he worked and had a kind of sixth sense which alerted him when someone was coming to spy. Ed was a very private man who did much of his work entirely alone in the quiet of the night. For 28 years, with only crude winches, block tackles, and iron wedges, Ed labored tirelessly on his monument. He cut coral from a quarry in front of the castle and moved enormous stones by lantern light. The Obelisk stone weighs 28.5 tons (25,400 kg / 57,000 pounds) and is taller than the Great Upright at Stonehenge, positioned single-handedly into place by Ed. The Tower consists of 243 tons (220,400 kg) of coral rock with each block weighing four to nine tons (3,630-8,170 kg). The average weight of the individual stones at Coral Castle is greater than those used on the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Perhaps the most astonishing characteristic is the perfectly balanced Nine-Ton Gate that can be turned by the touch of a child. Although the gate is uneven in its dimensions, Ed was able to locate the precise center of balance and easily swing the heavy stone on top of a recycled automotive gear.
Ed had a keen interest in astronomy and his sculptures were inspired in part by celestial objects and their movements. Always pointing to the North Star in Ursa Minor, the Polaris Telescope stands 25 feet (7.5 m) high and weighs 25 tons (25,400 kg). Polaris is a fixed star that is always visible at night through the opening in the telescope. It helped Ed plot the earth’s path around the sun and enabled him to design and construct a sundial that also indicates the solstice and equinox days. The sundial is so accurate that it is possible to determine Standard time within one or two minutes all year round. His celestial sculptures range from an 18-ton (16,330 kg) carving of Mars and another of Saturn, to enormous crescent moons, a Sun Couch, a Throne Room, and a Moon Fountain. Since Ed had a personal belief that there was life on Mars, he placed a Palmetto plant in the Mars sculpture as a symbol life.
The extraction and lifting of such incredible amounts of coral rock — without the use of electricity or modern cranes and using only handmade tools — by a single man seems impossible. Baffled engineers have compared Ed’s secret method of construction to Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids. Many people asked the diminutive Latvian how he was able to carve and move such heavy stones. He would only say that he understood the secrets of how the Great Pyramids were built. Was it possible that Ed was a reincarnated Egyptian architect who retained past life knowledge of secret levitation techniques? Some might argue there is no other explanation.
Getting to the Coral Castle
Nestled between the Florida Keys and Miami, the privately owned Coral Castle is open for self-guided tours from 9 am to 9 pm every day. Conveniently located at 28655 South Dixie Highway on the main drag in Homestead, the Coral Castle is centrally located only “a stones throw away from Exit 5 South,” according to the tourist brochure. Just outside of Homestead are the fantastic natural preserves of Everglades National Park and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.