Love is one of the most powerful forces that can have an affect on us humans. We’ve seen timeless examples of the extremes that love can drive us to, from the works of Shakespeare to the majesty of the Taj Mahal, there are countless world renowned examples of love-driven art. There are some tributes to love though that come from love that has been lost or worse, unrequited. The Coral Castle in Homestead, Fl is just one of those places. Tucked away in a small town, far away from the hubbub of Miami is a castle built of solid stone dedicated to one man’s love for a woman that chose to spurn him. What makes this place incredible is that every stone was cut by hand and laid over the course of 20 years by only one man: Edward Leedskalnin.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Coral Castle is the story of it’s proprietor and builder. Born in Latvia in the late 1800′s he was poor and relatively uneducated. At the age of 26 he was engaged to marry a girl that was 10-years his junior. Sadly though, Ed’s Sweet 16 (as he affectionately referred to her ) scorned him for the love of another younger, better-off man. After this occurred Ed was distraught and left Latvia to find a new life. He wandered through Canada, California, and Texas picking up odd jobs on lumber ranches and on cattle drives. He eventually settled into South Florida, drawn there by its warm climate and his bout with tuberculosis. After buying a large tract of land, he then spent the next 20 years of his life building the Coral Castle as a tribute to his unrequited love. He never fully explained his motives to anyone during his lifetime, but the fact that it was dedicated to his “Sweet Sixteen” is telling enough. Interestingly, the site was actually begun about 10 miles away from it’s current location. Much of the stone furniture was actually trucked in from the original site, but all moved by the reclusive Ed, in the middle of the night. What makes this even more unbelievable is the fact that Ed was only 5’2″ and weighed all of 100lbs!
When you first arrive at the museum, you’re not really sure what to expect. The entire compound is surrounded by 8-foot walls that were built by the reclusive Ed to hide his work methods. He claimed that he built everything in the compound with only rudimentary tools and a basic understanding of weights and leveraging. There are also signs throughout the property, installed by Ed, that are designed to build up the suspense and mystery.
When we first arrived, we were both struck with surprise as to how large the compound was and how much there was to see.
And to think he quarried all the stones from an area like this…
using such simple tools as these.
There is one part of the compound that was Ed’s dedicated house which provided him shelter from Florida’s harsh climate, the rest of the property is all open air.
He had a few “comforts” he built in, but I think he uses the term “comfort” loosely.
To me the coolest structures were those focusing on the solar system. These are actually part of the Coral Castle’s outer wall and were originally built in Florida City and then moved to this site. What makes that so remarkable is the fact that the pieces weigh about 23 tons each!
The largest piece on the site is this obelisk featuring the Latvian Star carved into its top. This piece was also carved in Florida City and then moved into the Coral Castle site in Homestead. It is said that the piece weighs over 28 tons and took 3 days to be moved into its final resting place.
Being a science nerd, one of my personal favorite pieces on the property was the sundial. built and designed by Ed, it can accurately track the time of day within 1-2 minutes, between the hours of 9 – 4. He chose 9- 4 because he felt that those were the hours that a man should work. The ovals are shaped in a way that they adjust for the Earth’s rotational and axial changes throughout the year. It’s thought to be the only sundial of it’s kind in the world.
Overall the Coral Castle was one of the more unique destinations that we visited while in South Florida. There are tour guides included in the cost of admission that will walk you through the compound and share many stories and details with you. Overall the entire experience should last about 1 -2 hours, so if you are planning on making the trip down to Homestead I recommend combining it with a few other activities that are available nearby.