Coral Castle

Using only simple tools, a slight immigrant from Latvia single-handedly moved over 1,100 tons (997,700 kg) of coral blocks and constructed an engineering marvel called the Coral Castle.

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.