Edward Leedskalnin

 

Leedskalnin built Coral Castle (originally called Rock Gate Park) single-handedly in Florida City, Florida, between 1920 and 1940, from blocks of local coral. Born in Latvia, hewas a stonemason by trade. He made his way to Canada in 1912, and by 1920, he had traveled to California, where he worked in lumber camps. Work in the campsgave Leedskalnin the physical strength, skills, and knowledge that he later used in cutting and moving blocks of coral weighing many tons. What makes his work remarkable is the fact that he was a mere five feet tall and weighed only one hundred pounds.From 1918 to 1920, Leedskalnin traveled to Florida City, and settled on one acre of land. For unknown reasons, he chose to build a castle on his land anddedicated it to “Sweet Sixteen,” thought to be a girlfriend from his adolescence in Latvia. Southern Florida is generally composed of fossilize coral covered with a fewinches of topsoil. Using only hand tools, Leedskalnin cut, carved, and moved huge blocks of coral alone to construct his castle.He remained in Florida City until 1936. In 1937, he bought three acres of land in Homestead, Florida, and moved the castle, block by block, to Homestead, adistance of about ten miles. He mounted the chassis of an old truck on two rails and added wheels with rubber tires to construct a make shift trailer. With the help of afriend who owned a tractor, he moved the castle from Florida City to Homestead. Despite the difficulty of this work, no one ever reported seeing Leedskalnin loadingor unloading the truck.In 1940, after the carvings were in place, he finished erecting the walls. Each section of wall is eight feet tall, four feet wide, three feet thick, and weighsapproximately 13,000 pounds. It took him a year to build a coral tower, containing two hundred forty three tons of coral. The blocks of coral that make up the wallsweigh from four to nine tons each. The roof is composed of 30 blocks of coral, each weighing approximately one ton. Leedskalnin also carved and built from coral atelescope, a sun-dial clock that is both a clock and a calendar, and a gate weighing nine tons that can be moved very easily, using only one finger to push it.Leedskalnin lived in his castle from 1923 to 1951 He made a living by charging visitors ten cents each. Today Coral Castle is open to visitors. Under the supervisionof the Dade County Office of Historical Preservation, the castle is administered by the Barr family, whose antecedents purchased it in 1954 from Harold Leedskalnin,who had inherited it from his cousin Edward in 1951.