Coral Castle was built by Edward Leedskalnin, a stonemason born in 1887 in Riga, Latvia. Now you probably think, well that’s nothing special – well actually it is. Even that the size of the castle can’t compete with the Pyramids of Gizeh or the Neuschwanstein Castle, it’s a remarkable achievement. Why? It was built out of coral limestone by only one man just over 5 feet tall and weighing only about 100 pounds. Ed used only hand-made tools and there was no heavy machinery available to assist him. How he pulled it off is still a mystery until today. There are many theories out there how he did it. Ranging from defeating gravity all the way to being helped by Aliens.
The castle is a monument to Ed’s big love, Agnes Skuvst, which he refers to as his “Sweet Sixteen” after she broke his heart by cancelling the wedding just one day before they were about to getting married.
After that he moved to the United States and worked in the lumber industry. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, Ed moved to Florida as the good weather was the only known cure.
He started building the castle near Florida City in 1928 and moved it 1939 to where it resides now – Homestead, FL. Nobody ever saw Leedskalnin building his castle and how he did it. He usually worked at night and with the cover of the surrounding forest. People saw the transport of the pieces along Old Dixie Highway, but nobody ever saw him loading or unloading the trailer. He did that all by himself. How? Nobody really knows.
Coral Castle, former known as “Rock Gate Park” is not only about how it got built, it’s also about all the other astounding accomplishments inside his castle.
A sign, carved in stone near the entrance, reads “You will be seeing unusual accomplishments”. Some of this are the up to two minute precise sundial or the Polaris telescope, which aligns with the North Star.
Also Ed liked to show his self-made AC generator to power two light bulbs. This was just for show when he gave tours in his castle. The probably most astounding accomplishment was his nine ton gate. The gate was so perfectly balanced and put in place, that a child could turn it with one finger. Unfortunately it stopped working and it got repaired once before with the help of a 20-ton crane and 6 people. It started working again for about 10 years until it seized up again. Now the gate might crack and fall apart if there is another repair attempt. That’s not all, he built himself a cooker out of an old transmission, a well for fresh water and cooling food and many more. You could call Edward Leedskalnin the MacGyver of his time. He even built rocking chairs out of limestone.
The whole castle weighs about 1000 tonnes and Edward Leedskalnin quarried, carved, moved and set all the pieces by himself in the cover of darkness. The 5000 pounds heavy heard-shaped table is used every year by many couples to renew their vows on Valentine’s Day. The table is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.
He even carved a complete bedroom for him, his wife and children out of limestone. Unfortunately he never got married. Ed himself lived upstairs inside the tower. during the complete construction of the castle. There are 16 steps leading up to the second floor. It might be a coincidence that there are 16 steps or it might has something to do with his “Sweet Sixteen”. Walking back down from his living quarters you get a great overview of the castle. At the ground level of the tower you will find now some of the tools he used to build this landmark as well as the before mentioned AC generator.
If someone asked Ed how he built his castle, he would just answer “It’s not hard if you know how.” or that he understood the laws of weight and leverage well and that he discovered the secrets of the pyramids.
In November 1951 Ed became all and he put a sign at the front door: “Going to the Hospital”. Only a couple of days later he suffered a stroke and died at the age of 64.
Having no will the castle became the property of his closest living relative in America, a nephew from Michigan named Harry. According to the Coral Castle website the nephew was in poor health and sold it to a family from Illinois in 1953.
The new owners changed the name from Rock Gate Park to Coral Castle and turned it into a tourist attraction. In 1981 the castle got sold to Coral Castle Inc and the company retains ownership today. In 1984, the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today Coral Castle is still a famous tourist attraction and is visited by over 50.000 people a year. On the property is also a snack bar and a gift shop. The tours of the castles are free for visitors and are continuous. If you joined a tour at some point you can just start over and follow the tour guide again until the part where you first joined. My tour guide was Ken and he was very entertaining and also got the people to interact. I would also like to thank Coral Castle for hosting my visit. If you haven’t been to Coral Castle yet, check it out. Maybe on a road trip to the Florida Keys and Key West. During your visit you will probably see a couple of Lizards crossing your path. They are everywhere around the castle and seem to love it a lot. I was able to get some good shoots of one of the male Rainbow Lizards.
On my flickr page you can find some more photos from Coral Castle.