While you are staying in you Orlando Florida private vacation villas or Disney World rental home, we strongly suggest you take some time out to visit Coral Castle at Homestead near Miami.Coral Castle is one of the most amazing structures ever built. In terms of accomplishment, it’s been compared to Stonehenge, ancient Greek temples, and even the great pyramids of Egypt. It is amazing, some even say miraculous, because it was quarried, fashioned, transported, and constructed by one man – Edward Leedskalnin who was a 5 foot tall Latvian who weighed just 100 pounds.
Many men have single handedly built their own homes, but Edwards choice of building materials is what makes his undertaking so incredible. He used huge blocks of coral rock, some weighing as much as 30 tons, and somehow was able to move them and set them in place without assistance or the use of modern machinery. And therein lies the mystery.
Edward Leedskalnin and Coral Castle history
Coral Castle is a stone structure that was created by the Latvian-American eccentric Edward Leedskalnin. It can be found south of Miami in Homestead City, Miami Dade county in Florida. The location is at intersection of US 1 (South Dixie highway) and Southwest 157th Avenue. The structure comprises numerous megalithic stones (mostly limestone, formed from coral), each weighing several tons.
Edward Leedskalnin was a young man living in Latvia, when he was jilted by his 16 year old fiancée Agnes Scuffs just one day before their wedding. Feeling heartbroken, he left Latvia and went to live in Canada. After moving around Canada and America for some years, he finally settled in Florida.
During his time in America, he came down with allegedly terminal illness tuberculosis but this was spontaneously healed. Edward stated that magnets had some effect on his disease.
Edward spent over 20 years building the Coral Castle, refusing to allow anyone to view him while he worked. A few teenagers claimed to have witnessed his work, reporting that he had caused the blocks of coral to move like hydrogen ballons. The only tool that Leedskalnin spoke of using was a “perpetual motion holder” – whatever that is !!
Edward originally built the castle, which he named Rock Gate Park, in Florida City in about 1923. He bought some land from Ruben Moser whose wife had helped him when he had been ill with tuberculosis. Florida City, which borders the Florida Everglades is the southernmost city in the United States that is not on an island. It was an extremely remote location with very little development at the time. The castle remained in Florida City until about 1936 when Edward decided to move himself and so wanted to take the castle with him. It is thought that he chose to move in order to protect his privacy as there were discussions going on that the land around him was to be developed. Another theory is that he wanted to move to an area with more people as it was reported that he had been badly beaten up one night by hooligans looking to rob him. He spent three years moving the Coral Castle structures 10 miles north from Florida City to its current location in Homestead.
Edward carried on working on the castle right up until his death in 1951. The coral pieces that are part of the newer castle, not among those transported from the original location, were quarried on the property only a few feet away from the southern wall.
He charged visitors ten cents a head to tour the castle grounds. There are signs carved into the rocks at the front gate to “Ring Bell Twice” and a second sign just inside the property that says “Adm. 10c Drop Below”. He obviously trusted people to pay their entrance fee. He would come down from his living quarters which were the second story of the castle tower and are close to the gate and conduct the tour. If anyone ever asked Edward how he had made the castle, he would never tell them. He would always reply “It’s not difficult if you know how.” If he was asked why he had made Coral Castle, then he would answer quite vaguely that it was for his “Sweet Sixteen.”
When Edward became ill in December 1951, he put a sign on the door of the front gate “Going to the Hospital” and he took the bus to a Miami hospital. The doctors discovered he was suffering from malnutrition and he died in hospital three days later.
After his death, and while the property was being investigated, around $3,500 was found among his personal belongings. Leedskalnin had made his income from conducting tours, selling pamphlets about various subjects (including magnetic currents) and the sale of a portion of his 10 acre property for the construction of U.S. Route 1.
As Edward died without leaving a will. The castle became the property of his closest living relative in America. This was a nephew from Michigan named Harry.
It is reported that the nephew was in poor health and so he sold the castle to an Illinois family in 1953. However this story differs from the obituary of a former Coral Castle owner, Julius Levin, a retired jeweler from Chicago. His obituary states that Levin had purchased the land from the state of Florida in 1952 and may not have been aware there was even a castle on the land.
The new owners changed the name of Rock Gate Park to Coral Castle and then turned it into a tourist attraction.
In January 1981, Levin sold the castle to the Coral Castle, Inc. for $175,000. They remain the owners today.
In 1984, The National Register of Historic Places added Rock Gate, also known as Coral Castle, to its list of historic places.
The grounds of Coral Castle consist of 1,100 tons of stones found in the forms of walls, carvings, furniture and a castle tower. While commonly referred to as being made up of coral, it is actually made of oolite, also known as oolite limestone. Oliite is a sedimentary rock made up of small spherical grains of concentrically layered carbonate that may include localized concentrations of fossil shells and coral. Oolite is found throughout southeastern Florida from as north as Palm Beach County to as far south as the Florida Keys. Oolite is often found beneath only several inches of topsoil such as at the Coral Castle site.
The stones are held without any mortar, they are simply set on top of each other using their immense weight to keep them together. However, the craftsmanship detail is so skillful that the stones are connected with such precision that no light passes between the seams. The eight foot tall vertical stones that make up the perimeter wall have a uniform height. Even with the passage of decades and a direct hit on August 24 1992 by Category 5 Hurricane Andrew, which leveled everything in the area, the stones have not shifted.
Many of the features and carvings of the castle are notable. Among them are a two story castle tower in which Edward lived. There are walls that consist entirely of eight foot high pieces of coral. There is an accurate sun dial and a Polaris telescope. There is an obelisk, a barbecue, a water well, a fountain, celestial stars and planets, and also numerous pieces of furniture. The furniture pieces include a heart shaped table, a table in the shape of Florida, twenty five rocking chairs, chairs resembling crescent moons, a bathtub, beds and a royal throne.
The Thirty Ton Stone
What is most remarkable about the contents of the Coral Castle is the massive size of the stones that have been used throughout its construction. It is all the more remarkable when you consider that a single man assembled the entire site using only primitive tools. With just a few exceptions, the objects are made from single pieces of stone that weigh on average 15 tons each. The largest stone weighs 30 tons and the tallest stones are two monolithic stones both standing 25 feet high.
A nine ton revolving gate is the most famous structure of the castle and was documented on TV’s In Search of…, and That’s Incredible! The gate is carved so precisely that it fits within a quarter of an inch of the walls on both sides. It was so well balanced that a child could open it with the push of a single finger. The mystery of the gate’s perfectly balanced axis and the amazing ease with which it revolved lasted for decades until the gate suddenly stopped working in 1986. At that time, a team of engineers was brought in for consultation. In order to remove the gate, six men and a fifty ton crane were utilized. Once the gate was removed, the engineers discovered how Edward had centered and balanced the nine ton piece of rock. He had drilled a hole from top to bottom of the eight foot tall gate with no electric tools and inserted a metal shaft. The rock rested on an old truck bearing. It was the rusting out of this bearing that resulted in the gate’s failure to revolve. The nine ton gate, complete with new bearings, and a replaced shaft was lifted and set back into place on July 23 1986. The gate failed again in 2005 and was subsequently repaired, however it does not rotate with the same ease it once did. This just goes to show what a great engineer Edward really was.
Controversy surrounding its construction
The structure is considered mysterious by some, mainly because it is said that one man assembled the entire structure. Edward Leedskalnin seems to have gone to great lengths to ensure that he was not observed working. Edward did much of his work at night by lantern light. The Coral Castle has numerous lookouts along the Castle walls that were designed to help protect his privacy.
There are various theories that believe that Edward constructed the Castle using some unknown form of science. For example, it has been claimed that he left behind the blueprints of nature, a “Secret Knowledge of the Ancients”. Such theories seem to be discounted by evidence such as photographs which exist showing him working apparently using traditional methods like block and tackle.
There is skepticism as to the success of the traditional methods of tripods equipped with pulleys and chains that are in the photographs of Edward working. Some point out that the tripods appear to only rise about 20 feet while the largest stones are 25 feet long and stand vertical. They claim that tripods that are made from wooden telephone poles could not support the larger stones. There are not enough pulleys to lessen the weight of the stones enough that a 100 pound man could exert enough force to lift the stones. The three eights inch thick chains that can still be found in the Tool Room of the Castle Tower and which are seen in the photographs are only rated with a 3.5 ton workload and may not be able to support the weight of the stones. However, these claims have not been rigorously analyzed by either engineers or scientists.
It is claimed that if anyone ever questioned Edward about how he moved the blocks of coral, he would only reply that he understood the laws of weight and leverage well. He also stated that he had “discovered the secrets of the pyramids”, which of course could be interpreted in either esoteric or engineering terms.
Despite the skepticism of traditional building methods at least one person, W. T. Wallington, has shown that he can produce feats of this nature using only simple tools. Given this type of construction method, the statements of Edward Leedskalnin and the evidence surrounding its construction this could be the way he built coral castle.
Other bits of information
Billy Idol wrote and recorded the song “Sweet Sixteen” and filmed the video in the Coral Castle. The song was inspired by the story of Edwards former love, Agnes Scuffs, who was the main reason he built the structure.
Contemporary Christian artist Andrew Peterson recorded a song entitled “The Coral Castle” as an unrequited love song from the point of view of Edward. It can be found on his album “Carried Along”.
The New York-based band Pinataland wrote a song about Leedskalnin and the Coral Castle, called “Latvian Bride”.
The Wild Women of Wongo used the Coral Castle for their dragon god temple in the eponymous 1958 film.
The 1961 Doris Wishman film Nude on the Moon used the Coral Castle as the “moon” scene for the moon people’s home.
Cuban American author Daina Chaviano has dedicated a whole chapter to Coral Castle in her novel The Island of Eternal Love.
Coral Castle was the subject an episode of Leonard Nimoy’s program In Search of…. The episode, The Castle of Secrets (aka Coral Castle) was episode 16 of season 5; it included a re-enactment of Edward Leedskalnin magically moving the stones.
Author: Phil Cornish
This article was written by Phil Cornish. Designer and owner of http://www.FloridaSunTime.com and http://www.DisneyvillasinFlorida.net, the Florida web sites providing Disney villas, villas in Florida, Orlando vacation homes, Disney vacation rentals, Orlando villas and also http://www.Simply-Florida.com our own luxury villa in Kissimmee.