Built during the 1920s and 1930s, Coral Castle, a monumental stone structure and sculpture garden, was built by a lonely immigrant from Latvia named Ed Leedskalnin. Its construction became a daunting force for creativity ‑ the embodiment of his broken heart carved in stone.
In 1913, twenty-six year old Ed was jilted by his 16-year old fiancé, Agnes Scuffs, his “sweet sixteen”. On the day before the wedding, she said he was too old for her. Devastated and ashamed, Ed quickly left Latvia and headed to America where he worked in Canada, California, and Texas as a laborer in lumber camps and on cattle drives. Along the way Ed contracted Tuberculosis. To get relief for his ailing lungs, Ed made his way to Florida in 1920. He had been told the climate would give him a fighting chance to recover from what was at that time a nearly always fatal disease.
Ed was on the verge of dying when Ruben Moser, a wealthy landowner and property developer in Florida City, found Ed lying in a heap on the side of the road. Moser picked him up, put him in the back of his car and took him home. Over the next few weeks, Moser’s wife, Frances, and daughter, Lois, helped to nurse Ed back to health in a nearly miraculous recovery.
Moser sold Ed a one acre piece of land in Florida City, where Ed began to construct his first “Rock Gate” as he called it. Using hand-crafted primitive tools made from scrap auto parts, Leedskalnin, who was five feet tall (the size of a ten year old boy), never weighed more than around 100 pounds, and always worked alone in secrecy during the dark hours of the night.
In 1925, Ed determined he needed a location with more privacy and space. He found a site in Homestead 10 miles up the road on US1. Ed deconstructed his sculpture garden and moved his massive stone structures on truck trailers he designed himself, which were then hauled by a neighbor’s tractor to Homestead. That is the only time Ed ever accepted help from anyone. Alone in the dark, Ed loaded and unloaded the massive fragile sculptures, making sure no one was watching.
Now situated on a 10-acre site, Ed continued sculpting new creations. He built massive stone walls and a large tower to surround his sculptures and insure his privacy. Overall, he cut, carved, and moved over 1,100 tons of stones, some weighing more than 25 tons each, made from fragile fossilized coral reefs, without the use of electricity or mechanized construction equipment. He would often tell people he had figured out the secrets to building the great pyramids of Egypt and that he understood the laws of weight and leverage.
Ed died alone in a hospital in 1951. Some people say he had acquired alien technology, others that he used magnets to levitate the stones, or that he was a brilliant engineer and stonemason. To this day no one knows how he moved the massive stones.
My daughter Tara and I visited Coral Castle on May 16, 2014. Our expert museum guide, Patricia Paredes, (featured in the videos) was as enthusiastic about showing us around as we were to see the place. We are very grateful for all the time she gave us and in helping us to understand the magic and mysteries surrounding Ed Leedskalnin and his magnificent creations.
Coral Castle Museum is located at 28655 South Dixie Highway, Homestead, Florida 33033. Phone: 305-248-6345