Edward Leedskalnin was born in Riga, Latvia on August 10th, 1887. When Ed was 26 years old, he became engaged to marry his one true love Agnes Scuffs. Agnes was 10 years younger than Ed and he affectionately referred to her as his “Sweet Sixteen.” Agnes canceled 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 that has become one of the world’s most remarkable accomplishments, originally called Rock Gate Park but now known as the Coral Castle. With no outside assistance or large machinery Ed single-handedly built the Coral Castle, carving and sculpting over 1,100 tons of coral rock, as a testimony to his lost love, Agnes.
What makes Ed’s work remarkable is the fact that he was just over five feet tall and weighed only 100 pounds. In this part of Florida, the coral in some areas can be up to 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 to cut and move these blocks.
Ed had lived in Canada, California, and Texas but when he developed a touch of tuberculosis, he decided to move to a better climate to help his condition. Ed moved to Florida in 1918 and lived in Florida City until about 1936. Ed was a very private person and when he heard about a planned subdivision being built near him he decided to move to Homestead. In 1936 he bought 10 acres of land. Ed spent the next three years moving the Coral Castle structures he had already begun to build from Florida City to Homestead, a distance of 10 miles.
How did Ed move all these carvings 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 move the loaded trailer from Florida City to Homestead. Ed lived a very simple life; he did not own a car. Instead, Ed would ride his bicycle three and one-half miles into town for food and supplies on a regular basis.
Many people saw the coral carvings being moved along the Dixie Highway, but no one actually ever saw Ed loading or unloading the trailer. Ed did much of his work at night by lantern light and to help protect his privacy, he built numerous “lookouts” along the Castle walls.
In 1940, after the carvings were in place, Ed finished erecting the walls. The coral walls weigh 125 pounds per cubic foot. Each section of wall is eight feet tall, four feet wide, three feet thick, and weighs more than 58 tons!
When questioned about how he moved the blocks of coral, Ed would only reply that he understood the laws of weight and leverage well. This man with only a fourth grade education even built an AC current generator, the remains of which are on display today. Because there are no records from witnesses his methods continue to baffle engineers and scientists, and Ed’s secrets of construction have often been compared to Stonehenge and the great pyramids.
The only written records Ed left to are five pamphlets that he wrote. “A Book in Every Home” which contains Ed’s thoughts on three subjects – Sweet Sixteen, Domestic and Political Views. He wrote three pamphlets on “Magnetic Current” and his “Mineral, Vegetable and Animal Life” contains his beliefs on life’s cycle. These pamphlets are available only in our gift shop.
In December of 1951 Ed became ill. He put a sign on the door of his Castle saying “going to the hospital,” took a bus to Jackson Memorial in Miami and died three days later 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 switch in ownership, a box of Ed’s personal effects was found containing a set of instructions that led to the discovery of 35 one hundred dollar bills, his life savings. Ed made a small living giving tours for 10 and 25 cents, from the sale of his pamphlets, and from the sale of the land where U.S. Highway 1 passes the Castle.
In Ed’s case, he labored intensely for 28 years working on this astonishing masterpiece. Ed was a common man who touched the lives of all who met him in an uncommon way. Forever carved in stone, the Coral Castle is a timeless beauty that defines Ed’s undying love for his “Sweet Sixteen” and will continue to astonish Coral Castle visitors.