Visiting Coral Castle With a Dog in Homestead, Florida – USA
We love a mystery. We are fans of things that can’t quite be explained. That is how I know that one day I shall see Stonehenge, for example, or the great pyramids of Egypt. With luck, both!
I recently got see one such place. It was much closer to home and it is, much to my delight, very pet friendly. It has been featured in hundreds of newspapers and magazines from Life (magazine) to Readers Digest. This place has also been on TV, featured on shows such as “Ripley’s Believe it or Not,” “In Search Of,” and “That’s Incredible.”
You’re curious now aren’t you? Where is this place? Astoundingly, it is just outside of Miami, Florida. On Dixie Highway, in the town of Homestead.
The place is Coral Castle.
The only way to describe Coral Castle in a few words would be to call it an engineering marvel. You see, the castle was built by a 5 foot tall, 100 pound Latvian immigrant named Ed Leedskalnin. Some say he built the castle for his one true love, his sweet sixteen, the “one that got away,” left behind in Latvia. We don’t believe that story and, in fact, there is little to no evidence that this was the case. But people are attracted to love stories so perhaps that’s why the tale lives on.
We are inclined to believe that Ed was a Freemason and that the castle is his monument to “The Supreme Being and the Volume of Sacred Law.” Our guide was also of this opinion. It’s not hard to reach this conclusion for as you walk through Coral Castle, you’ll see the Mason symbols. There is also a sense of possible ritual and acknowledgement of the Freemason responsibilities. I will not go into detail as to who Freemasons are; you can do your own research. Actually, here’s a quick 101. I think it might be good if you read this before we go on. It’s okay, take your time. I will wait.
Done? Fascinating, isn’t it?
Now what makes this place a mystery is that this tiny Latvian did all of the construction on his own. Without any help, using only simple tools that he often made himself, Ed excavated, carved and moved tons of coral rock. It’s hard to believe considering the walls around the castle are built of huge stones with the largest weighing 29 tons. Spaces between the large stones were filled with small fist sized stones placed so perfectly that no light shows through. How did Ed do this? No one really knows.
The first hint that Coral Castle has little to do with a love story is where we first joined the tour guide and his group. (You can join the tour at any time. The tours are ongoing and in a loop, so no matter when you jump in, you can still get the full tour.) Here is a bird’s eye view of Coral Castel. My paw is where our tour started at the Polaris Telescope.
The wall near the Telescope contains over 150 tons of rock and includes a column with a hole at the top in the shape of a small cross. That small cross aligns with another hole in a lower wall that focuses perfectly on the North Star. Really. Amazing, isn’t it?!
But that isn’t all.
The Sundial records the hours a “man should work” – that is, according to Ed, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Using the sundial, it is possible to determine Standard time within one or two minutes all year round. It is that accurate. Pretty amazing, again!
The most photographed part of Coral Castel is the Crescent Moon and Planets. In the corner of the eastern-most wall, Ed constructed a 20 foot tall Crescent Moon that weighs over 23 tons. In the same corner is Mars, and next to it, the planet Saturn. At the feet of these planets is the “Throne Room.” It is said that Ed believed every man’s house was his castle and that every castle should have a throne. I suppose this is true; after all, even in our home, we have “Dad’s chair.” Of course, Mom has hers too. Anyway, Ed’s throne is 5000 pounds of solid coral rock. (That’s a little bigger and heavier than our condo could bear.) There are three thrones in all: one for Ed, another for his possible “lost love,” and the third for the child they never had. But here’s the best part: there is a fourth chair … for the mother-in-law. It’s placed behind Ed’s throne and made as uncomfortable as possible to ensure any mother-in-law would not overstay her welcome. I think it’s a good thing Ed never married!
The prettiest construct of Coral Castle is, by far, the Moon Fountain. The Fountain shows a first quarter, last quarter and full moon, each in its own piece of coral. I believe that it’s the Bougainvillea planted next to the fountain, when in full bloom, that makes this spot so lovely. It’s also the only seat in the castle that was really comfortable.
The Great Obelisk – another construct in the castle – is yet another a mystery. How did Ed move this 28 ton stone on his own? It’s bigger than the great upright at Stonehenge! At the top of the obelisk is the carved Latvian star. It looms over the bedroom, where beds await for Ed, his prospective wife and children. There is even a rocking cradle and child’s rocker, and the kids’ beds are all on a higher level, out of harm’s way. To the left is a small bathtub, complete with shaving mirror. To the right, a repentance corner. Funny how the repentance corner is right next to where the children’s beds are located!
The kitchen is basically a barbecue. Although unheard of in the 1930’s, a barbecue is basically what Ed constructed. The fire is built in the pit where a pipe embedded below served as a down shaft. The cooking pot is the rear end housing of Ed’s broken down Ford. He hung the “car pot” on a pulley. He could place the food in the pot, close and seal it off, and push it out over the fire. Basically, the system acts as a pressure cooker. Another genius moment for Ed. Apparently, Ed used to cook hot dogs in it for visiting kids.
There were many other fun things to see:
- the Florida State table, designed to accommodate the Governor and all Senators in one sitting;
- the Heart Table, a 5,000 pound table in the perfect shape of a heart, designed for a “feast of love”;
- the children’s playground, complete with porridge bowl, based on the story of Goldilocks – a story that Ed told visiting children.
But nothing is more amazing than the Nine Ton gate.
The Nine Ton gate is the crowning jewel mystery of Coral Castle. The gate proves Ed’s engineering genius without any doubt: although the stone is incredibly heavy, a child can turn it and close it! The gate also sits in its frame within a quarter of an inch of its surrounding wall. (Oh, that modern homes were built with such precision!) The gate has been probed, measured and even x-rayed by many engineers and scientists but to date, no one has been able to explain how Ed did it. Sadly, the gate no longer sits so precisely in its frame. Coral stone is porous and so, with time, the stone has degraded and shifted so the gate no longer fits so true. But our guide did turn the stone. It can still be done; it just requires a little more strength today than it did in the 1920’s.
After living for a long time in a shed next to the castle, Ed decided to build himself a little tower. The tower overlooks the castle entrance where Ed could see who had rung the bell to visit (for 25 cents). He had his tool room on the ground floor of the tower. You can still see Ed’s handmade tools, including an electrical generator Ed made from old car parts. On the second floor of the tower is a rather uncomfortable looking, but cleverly designed space. Everything on this floor is hanging from pulleys, allowing the bed, chair and even table to be raised off the ground, up into the rafters, to make room. This is where Ed must have written. He wrote five pamphlets in all. Most interesting are the ones on Magnetic Current, Mineral, Vegetable and Animal Life and his pamphlet on love, Domestic Life and Politics. The latter shows that Ed was, well, a chauvinist. This made us understand why he likely never married. You can buy copies of his work at the gift shop.
Ed died alone in a Hospital in Miami after hanging up a sign on the Coral Castle door stating simply, “Going to the Hospital.” Three days after he left the castle, Ed died in his sleep of cancer of the stomach.
Ed might have been a chauvinist, but he certainly loved children. He was a remarkable man. A determined man. An interesting and mysterious man. The world is always a better place when those who are “different” dare to be themselves and build their dreams.
If ever you are in the area, go!
So what do you think? Monument to a lost love or Freemason Masonic Lodge?