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Coral Castle is a stone structure created by the Latvian-American eccentric Edward Leedskalnin north of the city of Homestead, Florida in Miami-Dade County at the intersection of U.S. 1 (South Dixie Highway) and Southwest 157th Ave. The structure comprises numerous megalithic stones (mostly limestone, formed from coral), each weighing several tons.
Edward Leedskalnin was jilted by his 16-year-old fiancée Agnes Scuffs in Latvia, just one day before the wedding. Leaving for America, he came down with allegedly terminal tuberculosis but spontaneously healed, stating that magnets had some effect on his disease.
Edward spent over 28 years building the Coral Castle, refusing to allow anyone to view him while he worked. A few teenagers claimed to have witnessed his work, reported that he had caused the blocks of coral to move like hydrogen balloons. The only tool that Leedskalnin spoke of using was a "perpetual motion holder."
Leedskalnin originally built the castle, which he named Rock Gate Park, in Florida City, FL around 1923. He purchased the land from Ruben Moser whose wife helped assist him when he had a very bad bout with tuberculosis. Florida City, which borders the Florida Everglades, is the southernmost city in the United States that is not on an island. It was an extremely remote location with very little development at the time. The castle remained in Florida City until about 1936 when Leedskalnin decided to move and take the castle with him. The Coral Castle website states that he chose to move in order to protect his privacy when discussion about developing land in the area of the castle started. The second commonly held notion was that he wanted to relocate to a more populous locale after being badly beaten one night by hooligans looking to rob him. He spent three years moving the Coral Castle structures 10 miles (16 km) north from Florida City to its current location in Homestead, FL.
Leedskalnin continued to work on the castle up until his death in 1951. The coral pieces that are part of the newer castle, not among those transported from the original location, were quarried on the property only a few feet away from the southern wall.
Leedskalnin charged visitors ten cents a head to tour the castle grounds. There are signs carved into rocks at the front gate to "Ring Bell Twice" and a second sign just inside the property that says "Adm. 10c Drop Below". He would come down from his living quarters which were the second story of the castle tower and are close to the gate and conduct the tour. Leedskalnin never told anyone that asked him how he made the castle. He would simply answer "It's not difficult if you know how." If asked why he had made this castle, Leedskalnin would vaguely answer it was for his "Sweet Sixteen."
When Leedskalnin became ill in December 1951, he put a sign on the door of the front gate "Going to the Hospital" and took the bus to a Miami hospital. The doctors discovered Leedskalnin was suffering from malnutrition. He died in the hospital three days later.
While the property was being investigated, $3,500 was found among Leedskalnin's personal belongings. Leedskalnin had made his income from conducting tours, selling pamphlets about various subjects (including magnetic currents) and the sale of a portion of his 10-acre (40,000 m2) property for the construction of U.S. Route 1. Having no will, the castle became the property of his closest living relative in America, a nephew from Michigan named Harry.
The Coral Castle website reports that the nephew was in poor health and he sold the castle to an Illinois family in 1953. However this story differs from the obituary of a former Coral Castle owner, Julius Levin, a retired jeweler from Chicago, IL. The obituary states Levin had purchased the land from the state of Florida in 1952 and may not have been aware there was even a castle on the land.
The new owners changed the name of Rock Gate Park to Coral Castle and turned it into a tourist attraction.
In January 1981, Levin sold the castle to the Coral Castle, Inc. for $175,000. They remain the owners today.
In 1984, The National Register of Historic Places added Rock Gate, also known as Coral Castle, to its list of historic places.
The grounds of Coral Castle consist of 1,100 tons of stones found in the forms of walls, carvings, furniture and a castle tower. While commonly referred to as being made up of coral, it is actually made of oolite, also known as oolitic limestone. Oolite is a sedimentary rock composed of small spherical grains of concentrically layered carbonate that may include localized concentrations of fossil shells and coral. Oolite is found throughout southeastern Florida from as north as Palm Beach County to as south as the Florida Keys. Oolite is often found beneath only several inches of topsoil such as at the Coral Castle site.
The stones are fastened together without any mortar. They are simply set on top of each other using their immense weight to keep them together. However, the craftsmanship detail is so skillful that the stones are connected with such precision that no light passes between the seams. The eight foot tall vertical stones that make up the perimeter wall have a uniform height. Even with the passage of decades and a direct hit on August 24, 1992 by the Category 5 Hurricane Andrew, which leveled everything in the area, the stones have not shifted.
Many of the features and carvings of the castle are notable. Among them are a two-story castle tower that served as Leedskalnin's living quarters, walls consisting entirely of eight foot high pieces of coral, an accurate sun dial, a Polaris telescope, an obelisk, a barbecue, a water well, a fountain, celestial stars and planets, and numerous pieces of furniture. The furniture pieces included are a heart-shaped table, a table in the shape of Florida, twenty-five rocking chairs, chairs resembling crescent moons, a bathtub, beds and a royal throne.
The Thirty Ton Stone.What is most remarkable about the contents of the Coral Castle is the massive size of the stones used throughout the construction, all the more remarkable when one considers that a single man assembled the entire site using only primitive tools. With few exceptions, the objects are made from single pieces of stone that weigh on average 15 tons each. The largest stone weighs 30 tons and the tallest stones are two monolithic stones standing 25 feet (7.6 m) high each.
A nine-ton revolving gate is the most famous structure of the castle and was documented on TV's In Search of..., and That's Incredible! The gate is carved so precisely that it fits within a quarter of an inch of the walls on both sides. It was so well-balanced that a child could open it with the push of a single finger. The mystery of the gate's perfectly balanced axis and the amazing ease with which it revolved lasted for decades until the gate suddenly stopped working in 1986. At that time, a team of engineers was brought in for consultation. In order to remove the gate, six men and a fifty ton crane were utilized. Once the gate was removed, the engineers discovered how Leedskalnin had centered and balanced the nine-ton piece of rock. Leedskalnin had drilled a hole from top to bottom of the eight-foot-tall gate with no electric tools and inserted a metal shaft. The rock rested on an old truck bearing. It was the rusting out of this bearing that resulted in the gate's failure to revolve. The nine-ton gate, complete with new bearings, and a replaced shaft was lifted and set back into place on July 23, 1986. The gate failed again in 2005 and was subsequently repaired, however it does not rotate with the same ease it once did.
The structure is considered mysterious by some, mainly because it is said that one man assembled the entire structure. Leedskalnin seems to have gone to great lengths to ensure that he was not observed working. The Castle's official site states that "Ed did much of his work at night by lantern light. The Coral Castle has numerous lookouts along the Castle walls that were designed to help protect his privacy."
There are various theories that hold that Leedskalnin constructed the Castle using some unknown form of science. For example, one website claims that "Ed Leedskalnin left behind the blueprints of nature, a Secret Knowledge of the Ancients". Such theories seem to be discounted by evidence such as photographs which exist showing Leedskalnin working apparently using traditional methods like block and tackle.
There is skepticism as to the success of the traditional methods of tripods equipped with pulleys and chains that are in the photographs of Leedskalnin working. Some point out that the Tripods appear to only rise about 20 feet (6.1 m) while the largest stones are 25 feet (7.6 m) long and stand vertical. They claim that tripods that are made from wooden telephone poles and could not support the larger stones. There are not enough pulleys to lessen the weight of the stones enough that a 100-pound man could exert enough force to lift the stones. The 3/8" thick chains that can still be found in the Tool Room of the Castle Tower and which are seen in the photographs are only rated with a 3.5 ton workload and may not be able to support the weight of the stones. However, these claims have not been rigorously analyzed by either engineers or scientists.
The Coral Castle site states that "if anyone ever questioned Ed about how he moved the blocks of coral, Ed would only reply that he understood the laws of weight and leverage well." He also stated that he had "discovered the secrets of the pyramids", which of course could be interpreted in either esoteric or engineering terms.
Despite the skepticism of traditional building methods at least one person, W. T. Wallington, has shown that he can produce feats of this nature using only simple tools. Given this type of construction method, the statements of Leedskalnin and the evidence surrounding its construction this could be the way Leedskalnin built coral castle.
The Coral Castle site claims that "[Ed Leedskalnin] has baffled engineers and scientists!" Although, no doubt baffling, the Coral Castle information booth was unable to identify a single scientist or engineer who had specifically examined the castle, despite the information on their Web site.
Billy Idol wrote and recorded the song "Sweet Sixteen" and filmed the video in the Coral Castle. The song was inspired by the story of Leedskalnin's former love, Agnes Scuffs, who was the main reason Leedskalnin built the structure.
Contemporary Christian artist Andrew Peterson recorded a song entitled "The Coral Castle" as an unrequited love song from the point of view of Edward. It can be found on his album "Carried Along".
The New York-based band Piñataland wrote a song about Leedskalnin and the Coral Castle, called "Latvian Bride".
The Wild Women of Wongo used the Coral Castle for their dragon-god temple in the eponymous 1958 film.
The 1961 Doris Wishman film Nude on the Moon used the Coral Castle as the "moon" scene for the moon people's home.
Cuban-American author Daína Chaviano has dedicated a whole chapter to Coral Castle in her novel The Island of Eternal Love (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group, 2008).
Coral Castle was the subject an episode of Leonard Nimoy's program In Search of.... The episode, The Castle of Secrets (aka Coral Castle) was episode 16 of season 5; it included a re-enactment of Leedskalnin magically moving the stones.