I visited one of Florida’s most mysterious structures in the small South Florida town of Homestead. It’s called Coral Castle but wasn’t designed for royalty. A poor man who immigrated to Florida City recovering from illness and a broken heart built it.
Twenty-six-year-old Ed Leedskalnin stood roughly five-foot-tall and weighed about 100 pounds. When his 16-year-old fiancée jilted him the night before their wedding, Ed was heartbroken. He left Latvia and came to the United States. When he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1918, he moved to Florida City.
Ed never married. He lived alone and began building a monument to his lost love. He worked on it in Florida City for over 20 years and then moved it to Homestead. There, he built coral walls around the sculptures. He charged 10 cents to tour the sculptures in Florida City and raised it to 25 cents in Homestead.
In 1984, Coral Castle earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ed worked alone, usually at night. He had only hand tools and a homemade block and tackle. Some stones in the structures weigh over 29 tons. No one ever watched him work, so he took the secret to his grave when he died in 1951.
Architects, builders, and psychics question how Ed could move such enormous stones. Theories range from his having the power to levitate, to knowing the secret of the pyramids. No one has ever proved how he lifted the stones. Ed merely said, “It’s not difficult if you know how.”
Much of his work shows his knowledge of astronomy. The Polaris Telescope, built out of almost 30 tons of rock, focuses on the North Star. His Sun Dial is so accurate you can tell the time within 1 or 2 minutes. He created the Crescent Moon and Planets. In it, the moon weighs 23-tons. Another astronomical sculpture, The Moon Fountain, depicts the moon’s three phases.
Ed lived in the castle in a two-story stone structure he built after moving to Homestead. As I wandered through the castle, I saw a bedroom with beds for himself and “Sweet Sixteen.” Ed must have envisioned them having a family and created children’s furniture. He carved a throne for her as well as one for himself. He made a seat for his “mother-in-law.” It’s the most uncomfortable seat in the castle. His Florida Table is 20 feet long and shaped like the Sunshine State. He surrounded it with 10 stone chairs, the governor’s chair at the head, and senators and representatives along the sides. His Great Obelisk is larger than the stones at Stonehenge. My favorite is the Nine Ton Gate. I pushed it open with one hand and it fit within a quarter-inch of its surrounding walls. He built all of his structures without mortar and fitted them perfectly.
The Coral Castle is open Thursday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It has guided tours lasting about an hour, or you can roam the grounds and listen to the audio stands throughout the grounds tell Coral Castle’s story.
Other Places Nearby
There are other things to visit nearby. Robert is Here is one of my favorites. It began when Robert Moehling’s father set him up with a roadside stand selling the family farm’s produce. Since Robert was so little, his father painted a sign that read “Robert is Here.” It worked and 60-plus years later the stand has grown into a tourist destination. Visit Florida calls it “the Disney of produce stands.” I found every kind of produce there, including many I’d never heard of before. You can get a milkshake or smoothie made from fresh fruit. There’s an animal farm, kids’ play area, and picnic tables where you can enjoy some of your purchases. I love Robert’s parrots that talked to me. There is live music on the weekends and holidays.
Fruit and Spice Park is filled with many exotic edible plants. The rule is, you can eat what has fallen from the trees but not pick any. There’s a narrated tram tour. You can have lunch at the Mango Café or enjoy your own packed-in lunch at a picnic table.
Everglades Alligator Farm and Everglades Outpost take you up close and personal with the Everglades’ most popular reptile, the alligator, and rescued wildlife.
Florida Pioneer Museum displays artifacts from early Florida life in a former Homestead Florida East Coast Railroad Station agent’s home dating back to 1904.
Whether you like urban or natural attractions, they are nearby. Homestead is between Everglades and Biscayne national parks and is adjacent to Miami with hundreds of attractions.
- Visit on a dry day as it gets slippery when wet. There are some stone stairs.
- You may spot a crocodile in the Everglades. This is the only place in the United States where they live.
Florida is the vacationer’s playground, with a host of things to see and do: