Long before Walt Disney World was built, the Coral Castle was thought by many of its visitors as the most magical attraction in Florida.
This remarkable attraction was created by Edward Leedskalnin, an immigrant from Latvia. Leedskalnin (1887-1951) began building his home in Florida City, around 1923. From what is known, he built the entire place by himself even though it meant quarrying huge stones, shaping them and creating terrific statues and scenes that continue to impress tourists almost 100 years later.
Yes, magic was claimed to be part of the process, even by Leedskalnin himself. Still, to this day, there remains questions about how it was accomplished. Of course it might be all explained by “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth.” the quote attributed (probably wrongly) to the ancient Greek inventor Archimedes in describing the usefulness of a lever.
Coral Castle was originally called “Ed’s Place” by Leedskalnin. Later, when he moved to nearby Homestead – a job that took three years – he called the place “Rock Gate” after the massive gate of rock he built as part of his home. It’s uncertain as to whether he created the structure as a tourist attraction or not, but from the beginning he seems to have been happy to receive visitors. He would ask for a dime (and later a quarter) when visitors dropped by.
Leedskalnin often said his reason for building the interesting place was that is was for his “Sweet Sixteen” and the story goes that the young lady rejected him before he emigrated to the US. The truth of this story is unclear as Leedskalnin himself described it in his autobiography as more of an ideal, than referring to an actual event.
After Leedskalnin’s death, the property was turned into an attraction and eventually it was called Coral Castle. In 1984, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The name Coral Castle is a bit of a misnomer. The structure is built of oolite, a form of limestone comprised of ancient fossilized shells and coral. Known as Miami Oolite, it’s the primary bedrock of south Florida from Palm Beach County to the Keys. The Miami Oolite is at least 75,000 years old.
Many of the stones can be called “modern megaliths” and are similar in size and weight to those in Stonehenge and the blocks that make up the Egyptian pyramids. Once he was in Homestead, he used part of his property as a quarry, which allowed him to do most of his work hidden from the public.
It’s estimated that the rock used in the construction has a combined weight of over 1000 US tons (907 tonne/metric tons). It’s a walled compound with a tower that housed his living quarters. In the grounds, there are many stone sculptures including representations of the planets, a Florida-shaped table, a heart-shaped table, rock rocking chairs, a bar-b-que, bathtub and even a working sundial.
On average, the objects each weigh about 15 US tons (13.6 tonne/metric tons). The heaviest objects weigh in excess of 30 US tons (27 tonne/metric tons). For comparison, the main standing stones of Stonehenge weigh about 25 tons (22.6 tonne/metric tons).
There are no definitive answers about how he was able to do all the work himself, however the tools he had available (such as pulleys and levers) were certainly able to do the work. The process was highly difficult for one person, but wasn’t impossible.
The Coral Castle continues to be a popular attraction and is a testament to what one person can accomplish in a lifetime.