Edward Leedskalnin was a bit of an eccentric, which might have been caused by the sadness of lost love. When Edward was suddenly rejected by his 16 year old fiancée Agnes Skuvst in Latvia, just one day before the wedding, he decided to immigrate to America. Once there, he came down with allegedly terminal tuberculosis, but was spontaneously healed. He believed that magnets had some effect on his disease. I don’t know about that part, but he lived much longer that he was ever expected to.
Leedskalnin decided to build himself a home where he could live out his years in solitude. The resulting “home” was eventually names Coral Castle, but was originally named “Ed’s Place.” Leedskalnin originally built the castle in Florida City, Florida, around 1923. Florida City, which borders the 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. Leedskalnin built the castle by himself, out of Oolite Limestone. Edward spent more than 28 years building Coral Castle, refusing to allow anyone to view him while he worked. A few teenagers claimed to have watched his work a few times and 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”. The stones are fastened together without mortar. They are set on top of each other using their weight to keep them together. The craftsmanship detail is so skillful and the stones are connected with such precision that no light passes through the joints. The 8-foot tall vertical stones that make up the perimeter wall have a uniform height. Even with the passage of decades the stones have not shifted.
Leedskalnin purchased the land from Ruben Moser whose wife had assisted him when he had a very bad bout with tuberculosis. The castle remained in Florida City until about 1936 when Leedskalnin decided to move and take the castle with him. He renamed it “Rock Gate.” The move was an even more amazing feat the the first building of the castle. Its second and final location has the mailing address of 28655 South Dixie Highway, Miami, FL 33033, which now appears within Leisure City but which is actually unincorporated county territory. He reportedly chose relocation as a means to protect his privacy when discussion about developing land in the original area of the castle started. He spent three years moving the component structures of Coral Castle 10 miles north of Florida City to its current location outside Homestead, Florida.
At Florida City, Leedskalnin allowed visitors to the castle, charging them ten cents apiece to tour the castle grounds, but after moving to Homestead, he asked for donations of twenty five cents. Nevertheless, he let visitors enter free if they had no money. There are signs carved into rocks at the front gate to “Ring Bell Twice.” He would come down from his living quarters in the second story of the castle tower close to the gate and conduct the tour. Leedskalnin never told anyone who asked him how he made the castle. He would simply answer “It’s not difficult if you know how.” When Leedskalnin became ill in November 1951, he put a sign on the door of the front gate “Going to the Hospital” and took the bus to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Leedskalnin suffered a stroke at one point, either before he left for the hospital or at the hospital. He died twenty-eight days later of Pyelonephritis (a kidney infection) at the age of 64. His death certificate noted that his death was a result of “uremia; failure of kidneys, as a result of the infection and abscess.” 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 property for the construction of U.S. Route 1. As Leedskalnin had no will, the castle became the property of his closest living relative in America, a nephew from Michigan named Harry. Coral Castle’s 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, Illinois. 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 turned it into a tourist attraction and changed the name of Rock Gate to Rock Gate Park, and later to Coral Castle. In January 1981, Levin sold the castle to Coral Castle, Inc., for $175,000. The company retains ownership today.