Take the Turnpike or head South on I-95 to 28655 South Dixie Highway in Miami, and you’ll make to a place that, at first glance, appears pretty unassuming. Your destination, Coral Castle. Originally called “Rock Gate Park”, Coral Castle was built by a single man from 1920-40, Edward Leedskalnin.
Born in Latvia in 1887, Edward stood 5ft tall and weighed 100lbs. At 26, he was engaged to marry Agnes Scuffs, whom he affectionately calls “Sweet Sixteen”. She was 10 years younger and apparently the love of his life. The day before their wedding, Agnes called the whole thing off. Why? It’s said she cites the age discrepancy. Edward felt the decision was based more on his financial standings… and, perhaps Agnes was in love with someone else.
During the 1918-20 period, he reached South Florida after wandering across the Canada and then the US for several years. Here, he purchased an acre of land in Florida City for $12USD. It’s on this land that he built the castle of coral dedicated to his “Sweet Sixteen”.
Apparently this part of Florida is covered with coral, as thick as 4,000 feet in some areas. Utilizing this coral and his hand tools, Edward, a man with only a fourth grade education, built the beginnings of his castle… one man, 5ft tall, 100lbs carving coral weighing approximately 125lbs per cubic foot with hand tools.
Around 1936, he purchased 10-acres in the present location and moved the castle in order to avoid living next a planned sub-division next door. With the help of a friend, an old Republic truck inlaid with two rails, they moved the carvings over a distance of 10 miles.
By 1940, the carvings were in place, he finished erecting the walls (each 8ft tall, 4ft wide, 3ft thick and approximately 13,000 pounds).
Visitors were instructed to ring twice. If he wasn’t busy, Edward would take them on a tour for twenty-five cents.
In December of 1951, at the age of 64, Edward took a bus to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and died in his sleep three days later. Agnes never came to see the Castle.
After his death, his nephew sold the property. In the acquisition, a box was found with his life savings: thirty-five $100 dollar bills earned from his ten to twenty-five cents tours.
If you go, don’t forget the stop by the gift store. Picked up the most amazing necklace featuring a pendant of a spider encased in resin.