Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Coral Castle; Herculean Feat, Genuine Mystery

From 1923 to 1951, a 5’ tall, 100 pound Latvian immigrant named Edward Leedskalnin came to America after being jilted by his 16-year-old fiancĂ©e only one day before their wedding. To make his luck even worse, he came down with TB soon after arriving here and this waif-like man said he healed himself with the use of magnets.

He went on to single-handedly and secretly carve numerous tons of limestone into a massive mysterious accomplishment. This castle offers tours in Homestead Florida where people congregate to contemplate how this man managed the feat. It took him over 28 years to build the castle and would never allow anyone to see how he did it. Originally, the castle was built and named “Rock Gate Park” in Florida City, Florida. In 1936, he spent three years moving the castle 10 miles to the location where it now sits. He continued to work on the castle until 1951 when he passed on.

Today, the castle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are 1,100 tons of stone that make up the structure and its parts. It is made of limestone (remember my earlier haunted formula in which limestone was very high on the haunted list?) The weight of the stones held them together and no mortar was used.

Wikipedia gives the best description, “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 sundial, 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. 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 the television programs 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.[12] The gate failed again in 2005 and was subsequently repaired, however it does not rotate with the same ease it once did.

Because he worked in secret, no one ever knew how this tiny man built this magnificent site. Some believe he harnessed knowledge of the ancients, such as the pyramid builders. Others believed he used a tripod and chains he had on site, but the tripod was shorter than the stones that were erected. The only clue the elusive little man gave when asked how he moved the stones was to say “I understand the laws of weigh and leverage.”

When asked why he built this amazing structure he often referred to his “sweet 16,” which everyone believed was his lost love.

Anyway you consider it, what this man did with his life was an example to us all of the possibilities of one person and one mission. Today, we’re all so scattered doing 10 different projects at one time and never really excelling at any. Imagine if all the attention from the moment we woke to the moment we slept was on one activity? How good would we be at it? What could we achieve? Still, I wonder if any of us could build a coral castle...


  1. How amazing this is. I vaguely remember seeing this on tv sometime ago.
    I wish I could be that focused ;)

  2. When I feel a task is Herculean, I just think about that little man and I think, "I have no excuse."

  3. EXCELLENT POINT! This sure gave me food for thought. (Not to mention made me feel very humbled!)