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Coral Castle
Miami, Florida
By: John McNamara

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Miami, Florida, Coral Castle, attraction, florida city
Miami, Florida, Coral Castle, attraction, florida city
Miami, Florida, Coral Castle, attraction, florida city
Miami, Florida, Coral Castle, attraction, florida city
Miami, Florida, Coral Castle, attraction, florida city
Miami, Florida, Coral Castle, attraction, florida city
Miami, Florida, Coral Castle, attraction, florida city

Coral Castle – A different Miami attraction Spending time with my mother is an annual ritual. She is a snowbird who visits sunny South Florida once a year, when we spend a day together. I call it our ‘bonding time’. We look for something that is different, unusual, fun, and easy for my 65-year-old mother. This year, I picked the famous attraction in Miami called the Coral Castle. I have known of this attraction for years, but never had the desire to visit until a friend of mine indicated how cool and different the place is. I decided that it was a perfect choice for our special day.

The drive to Coral Castle gave my mother and I plenty of time to talk. The journey from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami took about an hour. We traveled via the turnpike extension to Miami and then took exit # 5 (288th St.). Off the exit we went right for two miles to SW 157th Avenue, and then turned right again. Finding the Castle is a little tricky once you get off the turnpike. It is advisable to pay attention to the posted signs directing traffic to the attraction.
Once we arrived, we headed into the Castle and immediately began exploring.

We had a nice time playing with the items that Ed had built. Who is Ed? Edward Leedskalnin was born in Riga, Latvia on August 10th, 1887. When Ed was 26 years old he became engaged to be married to his true love, Agnes Scuffs. Agnes was ten years younger than Ed. He affectionately referred to Agnes as his ‘Sweet Sixteen’. Unfortunately, Agnes cancelled the wedding just one day before the ceremony.

Heartbroken and deeply saddened by this tragic loss, Ed set out on a lifelong quest to create a monument to his lost love. This memorial has culminated into one of the world’s most remarkable accomplishments. Ed’s unusual creation is Coral Castle, originally called ‘Rock Gate Park’. Ed single-handedly built Coral Castle without any outside assistance or large machinery. He carved and sculpted over 1,100 tons of coral rock as a testimony to his lost love, Agnes.

Ed had lived in Canada, California and Texas. Eventually, he developed a touch of tuberculosis and decided to move to a better climate to aid his condition. In 1918, he relocated to Florida City, Florida. He remained in Florida City until about 1936. When Ed learned of an up and coming subdivision to be built near his residence, he decided to find a more remote location to call home. In 1936, he discovered the city of Homestead and bought ten acres of land. Ed spent the next three years moving coral rock 10-miles, from Florida City to Homestead, Florida.

Ed continued to live a very simple life; he did not own a car. Instead, Ed would ride his bicycle three and a half miles into town for food and supplies on a regular basis. How, then, did Ed move the coral a distance of 10 miles? Ed had the chassis of an old Republic truck on which he laid two rails. He had a friend with a tractor transport the loaded trailer back and forth from Florida City to Homestead.

Many people have witnessed the coral carvings being moved along the Dixie Highway, but no one has actually ever seen, or reported seeing, Ed loading or unloading the trailer. This could be due to the fact that Ed did much of his work at night by lantern light. The Coral Castle has numerous lookouts along the outside walls that were designed to help protect Ed’s privacy. These castle walls and gates represent his private nature. In 1940, after his carvings were in place, Ed finished erecting the walls. The coral walls weigh approximately 125 pounds per cubic foot. Each section of wall is eight feet tall, four feet wide, three foot thick, and weighs more than 58 tons!

What makes Ed’s work even more remarkable is the fact that he was just over five feet tall and weighed only 100 pounds. The coral that he worked on was sometimes 4,000 feet thick. Incredibly, he cut and moved huge coral blocks using only hand tools. He had acquired some skills working in lumber camps, and came from a family of stonemasons in Latvia. He drew on this knowledge and strength in order to cut and move these blocks.

If anyone ever questioned Ed about how he moved the blocks of coral, Ed would simply reply that he understood the laws of weight and leverage well. He even built an AC Current generator! These accomplishments came from a man with only a fourth grade education. His incredible feats truly need to be witnessed in person in order to be appreciated. There is no record of anyone observing Ed carving in Florida City, or in Homestead. He has baffled engineers and scientists! People have compared Ed’s secret method of construction to Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids.

The only written records Ed left to posterity are five pamphlets that he wrote. A Book in Every Home contains Ed’s thoughts on 3 subjects. In addition, he wrote Sweet Sixteen, Domestic, and Political Views, three pamphlets on Magnetic Current, and Mineral, Vegetable and Animal Life, which contains his beliefs on the cycle of life. These pamphlets are available only in the Coral Castle's gift shop.

In December 1951 Ed became ill. He put a sign on the door of his Castle saying ‘Going to the Hospital’. He took a bus to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Three days later he died in his sleep at the age of 64.

After his death, a nephew living in Michigan inherited the Castle. In 1953, shortly before his death, the nephew sold the Castle to a family from Illinois. During the take-over, a box of Ed’s personal effects was found. It contained a set of instructions that led to the discovery of Ed’s life savings, thirty-five 100-dollar bills. Ed earned this money by providing tours for between ten and twenty-five cent, throughout his time at the Castle. He also made money from the sale of his pamphlets, as well as the sale of the land where U.S. Highway 1 passes the Castle.

It took Ed from 1923-1951 to build this amazing structure. Edward Leedskalnin’s life achievement, Coral Castle, is an undying testimony of his great love for Agnes Scuffs. To some, the only other tribute that can compare to Coral Castle is the Taj Mahal. It was built for the lost love of a king. Over twenty years and several thousand slaves built the Taj Mahal, a monument to the King’s wife. The difference is that Ed labored, solo, for twenty-eight years working on this astonishing masterpiece. He was a common man who touched the lives of all whom met him in an uncommon way. This humble yet unique man persevered in order to pay tribute to love. His physical tribute will astonish all that visit Coral Castle.

This is Ed’s story. Forever carved in stone, the Coral Castle is a timeless beauty that defines Ed’s undying love for his ‘Sweet Sixteen’. Ed’s stone tribute to Agnes Scuffs, carved by his own two hands will forever inspire romance in all those that choose to visit the monumental Coral Castle. It did my mother. Ed and my mother are both romantics at heart. It was easy for my mother to embrace the spirit of the building.

We had fun with the items in the house, such as the Bedroom, the Florida Table, and the Nine Ton Gate. Certainly, all visitors to the Castle will be rewarded with the creative handiwork of Ed. More importantly, this story will hopefully inspire sons and daughters from around the world to spend quality time with their parents. Since our visit, my mother has been diagnosed with lung cancer. I don’t know how her situation will turn out, but I am grateful that we had that day together at the Coral Castle. It brought smiles to our faces, and will be a day that will last in our memories forever.

Coral Castle
28655 South Dixie Highway
Miami, FL 33033
(305) 248-6345

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