Coral Castle – A Story about Unrequited Love, Dedication & a Genius Mind
In the arithmetic of love, one plus one equals everything, and two minus one equals nothing.
I was planning to dedicate this post to a Valentine’s Day, which is far behind. The matter is, the trip, we took to celebrate the holiday, happened later. And yet, is there any way to be late for the story of LOVE? I have heard and read many stories of love, passionate or platonic, virtual or bitter, but I have never been so touched by this story of unrequited love. It is about a man, who loved only one woman all his life, and a genius inside of him created a masterpiece, a mystery. It is known as the Coral Castle, located in Homestead, Florida. It is a 40-minute drive south off Miami. If you have been a frequent visitor to Miami and feel like ‘been-there-done-that’, you may try something different this time. In any case, I invite you on this virtual journey with me, as the story is not only about love, but also about a genius mind.
It all started in the 1920s when Edward Leedskalnin, originally from Latvia, moved to Florida. His health condition made him seek better climate. His broken heart condition made him look for some output of accumulated unspent love energy. Back in his native country, his fiancee, referred by him as “Sweet Sixteen”, canceled the wedding the day before, and left him suffering so much, that he never looked for someone else. Many years passed, but Ed remained loyal to the Love of his Life. Right after moving to Florida, he devoted the next 20 plus years to building an open air castle, carved of enormously heavy coral rocks. It is not your typical castle, which you’d expect to see. There was no heavy machinery involved, or multiple human workforce. It is more of an engineering masterpiece, implemented by one guy, who was a bit over 5 ft tall and of 100 pounds weight. He used only basic tools and worked at night, by the light of the lantern, so no one could see him. What is his secret? It has not been discovered since then. When asked, Ed himself used to answer: “I understand the laws of weight and leverage and I know the secrets of the people who built the pyramids (being those at the site at Giza in Egypt).”
All the details about this construction are astonishing:
- The castle walls were built of coral stones. Most of these gigantic rocks weighed 5 tons, with the biggest one 30 tons. The total weight of rocks used (carved and moved!) being over 1000 tons!
- All the work was done by a single person. He carved, pushed and lifted the coral himself by means of simple tools, many of which he created himself.
- There are many symbols and functional devices throughout the castle. You can see the planets, made of rocks: Mars, Saturn and crescent Moons. There are two holes drilled in two parallel rock constructions; when lined up, you can see Polaris. There is a pressure cooker, created by Ed and preserved well until these days. There is a room, containing original tools used for building the castle. There is a rotating gate, which is a 9 ton perfectly balanced coral rock.
- Surprisingly, all the chairs made of rocks are not uncomfortable! I mostly enjoyed sitting in a rocking chair, where many years ago Ed used to sit with his eyes closed, supposedly meditating or maybe visiting other planets?
The most uncomfortable chair in the castle was intended for the would-be mother-in-law.:-)
- You may get really puzzled how a guy with incomplete education could create a complex sundial, one of a kind. It looks like he had to watch the sun position for at least 4 years, which helped him create a more accurate sundial than known before. You may wish to check this video for more astonishing discoveries.
- One of the most touching corners, in my view, is the bedroom. Ed carved beds for himself and his love, together with the beds for their would be children and even a rocking cradle for a baby. Next to it is a table in the shape of a heart, which is frequently used as a place to renew vows on a Valentine’s Day. The original plant in the middle of the table lasted for 50 years! Now there are artificial flowers used instead.
- Initially, the construction started on a different site, but then Ed had to move it 10 miles away, as a nearby construction project would interrupt his secluded work process. He used a truck to move extremely heavy pieces of coral. Amazingly, you would not see any broken pieces of the erected stones throughout the property!
What adds to the originality of the story is that Ed had only 4 classes of education. All his major achievements were the result of his self-education. He wrote five pamphlets on magnetism, mineral, vegetable and animal life, politics, and moral education, where he mentioned “Sweet Sixteen”, the love of his life. I actually read some parts of one of his pamphlets A Book in Every Home and found it very interesting. If you are into science, you might check his other pamphlets.
When the construction work was complete, Ed opened his castle to public, and started charging 10 cents for admission. He lived a simple and secluded life. Ed passed away at the age of 64 due to kidney infection. He never revealed his secret of construction, and the artefacts did not help disclose them either. He left a mystery, that is yet to be solved. Sad as it may sound, the love of his life, Agnes, (“Sweet Sixteen”), found out about a castle devoted to her, later, but never bothered to visit it.
The Coral Castle may seem like a small place to explore, an impression you might have at the beginning. When you join the guided tour, you will discover more and more interesting facts, details and, of course, speculations, which would make you wonder. It can take you 10-15 minutes to go around the castle and take pictures. However, you may find yourself deeply touched by this unusual love story as well as the power of mind and dedication, that a small person can carry in a big heart. You may then easily spend a couple of hours, exploring mysterious nooks of this wonderous place.
The Coral Castle was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1984 under its original name of Rock Gate Park. It survived severe storms and the category 5 hurricane in 90-s.
Coral Castle Museum
28655 South Dixie Highway
Miami, FL 33033
Open daily at 8 a.m.
Entrance fee as of February 2013: $15 per person. If you are a Florida resident, you may get an annual pass for 2 years (you come for free if you bring a guest with you).
There is a gift shop/museum and a cafe on the Castle’s territory.
Guided tours are held throughout the day. I strongly recommend taking a tour, as it is very informative. Otherwise it may look just like a bunch of rocks:-)
I hope you enjoyed reading this story. If so, please share it with others and leave your comments. Your feedback is very important to me. Thank you!
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