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How Did One Man Build The Coral Castle Alone?

Archaeological FInds | November 15, 2018

Coral Castle (Photo by Hoberman Collection/UIG via Getty Images)

In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, there sits an unusual structure known as the Coral Castle. The building, comprised entirely of blocks of stone weighing several tons each, was built by one man who worked alone, often at night, without using heavy cranes. A group of teenage boys spying on him once reported that he levitated the stones into place. The builder himself, an eccentric Latvian-American named Edward Leedskalnin, even claimed to have used magnets to get the job done. So what is the secret of the Coral Castle’s construction? What is the story behind this odd tourist attraction?

Ed Leedskalnin and his Coral Castle

Leedskalnin Built His Castle After Being Dumped By His Teenage Fiancée

Ed Leedskalnin started working on the construction of his Coral Castle as a way to heal his broken heart. Leedskalnin, then 28, was set to marry his 16-year-old sweetheart, Agnes Skuvst, in his native Latvia. But on the day of their wedding, she abruptly called off the engagement. The spurned Leedskalnin left his country and moved to the United States, settling in southern Florida. He immediately got to work building a castle from the limestone and coral rocks nearby. This was in 1923. He continued to work on his castle until his death, 28 years later. If anyone asked him why he built his castle, he would always answer that it was for his “Sweet Sixteen.” 

Tons of Giant Rocks Make Up Coral Castle

The coral stones used to make Coral Castle are enormous and weigh, on average, about 15 tons each. Two very large stone monoliths are each 25 feet in height. All of the stones are carefully set together and held in place by gravity instead of mortar. The attention to detail and the craftsmanship is impressive…it is impossible to catch a glimmer of light between each stone because they fit so tightly together. 

Rock Features are also a part of the Coral Castle

In addition to the structure itself, there are numerous special features found at the site that are also made of carved stone. There is a well and a fountain, an obelisk and a throne. The sundial is accurate and the barbecue is functional. Leedskalnin carved more than twenty-five stone rocking chairs as well as other furniture items. 

The Rock Gate Was Perfectly Balanced

Leading visitors into the Coral Castle was an impressive rock gate. Formed from a single 8-foot stone weighing nearly nine tons, the rock was worked so that it fits within a quarter of an inch of the gate walls. The rock gate itself was so well balanced that it easily swung open with the slightest touch. The rock gate was a marvel of stone engineering. When the gate suddenly stopped working in 1986. When workers tried to determine why they discovered that Leedskalnin had drilled a hole the entire length of the stone and inserted a metal rod. The rock then sat on an old truck bearing that had rusted out and stopped working. 

One of Leedskalnin's signs at the Coral Castle.

Did Leedskalnin Levitate the Stones into Place?

In the 28 years that Leedskalnin worked to build the Coral Castle, he never allowed anyone to see him work. In fact, he did most of his work after dark. One time, a few local teens spied on Leedskalnin one night. They reported that Leedskalnin was able to make giant stones float in the air and move into place by levitation. When Leedskalnin was asked what kinds of tools he used, he only ever referred to something he called a “perpetual motion holder.” 

Did Leedskalnin Harness the Power of Magnets?

From early one, Leedskalnin was fascinated by magnets. In fact, he claimed to have contracted terminal tuberculosis as a young adult but was completely cured through the power of magnets. One of the legends surrounding the Coral Castle hints that Leedskalnin used reverse magnetism to move the heavy rocks. Leedskalnin even told people that he had an in-depth understanding of the laws of gravity, leverage and weight and that he had “discovered the secrets of the pyramids,” implying that magnetism was used by the ancient Egyptians to construct the Great Pyramid of Giza. 

Leedskalnin Opened the Coral Castle as a Tourist Attraction

At first, Leedskalnin charge ten-cents a person for visitors to come it to see his Coral Castle. He eventually bumped up the admission price to 25-cents, but he never turned anyone away. If a visitor showed up without any money, Leedskalnin would still allow them to tour the area. In addition to earning money from tourists, Leedskalnin got an income from selling brochures that he wrote on various subjects, primarily magnetic currents. Upon his death in 1951, he had more than $3000 cash sitting around his living quarters at the Coral Castle. 

The Coral Castle Still Attracts Tourists

Although most experts dispute the notion that Leedskalnin used levitation or reverse magnetism to move the heavy stones into place without help, visitors still flock to the Coral Castle outside Homestead, Florida, to see the unique, coral limestone building that was a testament to one man’s determination…and a means to remedy a broken heart. 

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.