Posted October 28, 2015
By STEPHANIE FREIRE
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Legend has it that a five-foot tall, 100-pound Latvian immigrant, Edward Leedskalnin, harnessed the engineering techniques used by the ancient Egyptians.
The Coral Castle, originally called “Rock Gate Park,” is a handmade, carved limestone fortress that was built in the early 1920s by Leedskalnin without any outside help and with the use of only simple tools. The castle has been featured on the History Channel, Univision and even some Italian and Canadian television shows.
Tom Lynch, the head tour guide at Coral Castle, said that there is a love story behind the building of the castle.
“In 1913, Edward was engaged to Agnes Scuffs, who was 10 years younger than him,” said Lynch. “One day before the wedding, she told Edward she did not want to marry him because he was too old,” he explained.
Leedskalnin was heart broken and left Latvia where he worked as a lumberjack in Canada and later in California. After being diagnosed with tuberculosis, Leedskalnin headed to Florida City around 1920 and bought an acre of land. For reasons only known to himself, he chose to carve a castle of local coral rock in dedication to Scuffs.
Most every carving was originally carved at the Florida City location. In 1936, Leedskalnin moved the carvings 10 miles to the castle’s current location in Homestead. After the carvings were set in place, he finished building the walls with coral from a quarry on the grounds.
Leedskalnin charged people 10 cents at the time to see his castle until December 1951 where he became ill and passed away at the age of 64.
Rosali Quinones is a 21-year-old from Pembroke Pines, Fla. She had always heard great things about the castle, but wanted to see it for herself.
“This place is so detailed and well thought out that I cannot believe one man did all of this,” said Quinones. “My favorite part of the castle has to be the Polaris Telescope. Being able to look through the hole yourself almost gives you a sense of how Edward lived his life here.”
The telescope was carved in two pieces. The outer part is located 20 feet outside the walls of the castle. It is 25 feet tall and weighs about 40,000 pounds. The inner part works as the eyepiece of the telescope and is located in the actual wall. At night, when the sets of wires in the inner and outer pieces are aligned, the North Star can be seen.
Another interesting feature of the castle is the sundial. After making some observations from his telescope, Leedskalnin made a sundial, which is now considered to be the only one in the world that can tell the time, month and season of the year.
Leedskalnin believed that every castle was never completed without a throne. He built himself a throne that weighs 5,000 pounds and even rocks back and forth. Off to the side of Leedskalnin’s throne are thrones for his ex-fiancé and a child. Perhaps the wittiest throne was located directly behind him, which was designed for his mother-in-law. This throne was the most uncomfortable chair in the castle to make visits “short and sweet.”
Laura Maye is the Coral Castle’s director of Management, Marketing and Sales. She said that the castle has up to about 500 visitors per day during the busy season.
“As Coral Castle has gained popularity, we’ve had people come from all over the world,” said Maye. The most recent trend we see is a lot of tour groups coming from China who are interested in learning more about the architecture and engineering of the castle.”
Considered by many as Leedskalnin’s greatest achievement, the nine-ton gate at the far end of the castle is a gigantic 180 inches wide by 92 inches tall by 21 inches thick block; yet it could be moved using just one finger. The gate pivots on a rod from above and rests on a gear of a car. The gate has been measured and even x-rayed by many scientists and engineers and no one has ever been able to come up with an explanation as to how Leedskalnin perfectly balanced the 18,000-pound uneven block.
The Feast of Love Table is also a big hit among tourists. Weddings have taken place in front of the table and some men have even proposed there during a tour of the castle. The 5,000-pound table is perfectly hear-shaped and has a heart-shaped centerpiece.
Leedskalnin loved flowers, but was unable to provide fresh flowers daily, so he planted an ixora plant on top of the centerpiece. The plant seen on the table today is the original plant placed more than 70 years ago. The table is also considered to be the largest valentine in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records.
There are 16 steps leading to Leedskalnin’s living quarters, perhaps in memory of Scuffs, who was 16 years old at the time of their engagement. Leedskalnin’s bed was made of a few wooden boards wrapped in burlap sacks and hung by chains on a pulley system from the ceiling so he could raise it out of the way during the day.
There was also a hanging chair next to his bed made from scrap metal, bicycle parts and a chain of an old horse harness. In the left corner of the room was a kerosene stove and a suspended food box.
The tool room shows perfect examples of what Leedskalnin used to build the castle and is the last stop on the tour. The truck spring wedges he used to break the perfectly shaped blocks of coral loose from the ground can be found in the room. Leedskalnin’s grinding wheel, made from parts of a car, and a grinding stone can also be seen and is still in working condition. Bottles with wire wrappings are believe to have been parts of radio sets that Leedskalnin built and experimented with.
Coral Castle is an engineering marvel that has been compared with Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Egypt. It is now placed in the National Register of Historic Places. Leedskalnin’s ways were mysterious in the 20 years he spent building the castle. Not a single person has reported seeing him work. Coral Castle is filled with history of a love story, architecture, engineering, archaeology and astronomy and is worth visiting time and time again.
If You Go
28655 S. Dixie Highway, Miami, Fla. 33033
Directions from the North:
Take I-95 South to the Florida Turnpike South.
Directions from the South:
Go North on U.S. 1, turn right onto SW 157th Avenue.
Hours of Operation
Sundays–Thursdays, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Cost of Admission
Adults (ages 13 – 64) $15, seniors (ages 65+) $12, children (ages 7–12) $7, children (under age 6) Free
There are several group rates currently available. For additional information please contact Laura Maye at 305-248-6345 or send Laura an email with your group information to firstname.lastname@example.org.