Coral Castle: A monument to unrequited love in the heart of South Florida

Coral Castle

Coral Castle. Image via Shutterstock/MaK999

By Cynthia De Saint

April 30, 2024

Behind an old road south of Miami is one of America’s most poignant monuments to an enduring, unrequited love. Here’s the fascinating story behind Coral Castle.

The aptly named Sunshine State is more than just year-round warm weather and gorgeous azure beaches. Besides its many natural wonders — like the fascinating caves of Florida Caverns State Park or the famous “love trees” of St. Augustine — Florida has some hidden gems that you may not have heard of but are certainly worth a visit.

Case in point: Homestead’s Coral Castle Museum. You’d never guess it, but just behind an old road south of Miami is one of America’s most poignant monuments to an enduring, unrequited love.

Once upon a time …

The story starts in the early 1900s in the Eastern European country of Latvia, a land in the Baltic region of Northern Europe as different from sunny Florida as one can imagine.

That is where 26-year-old Edward Leedskalnin fell in love with Agnes Scuffs, the beautiful 16 year old who stole his heart.

Coral Castle: A Monument To Unrequited Love In The Heart Of South Florida

Photo courtesy of Coral Castle via Facebook.

The couple appeared happy and in love, and even set a wedding date. But the day before the wedding, Edward received the devastating news that would mark him for life: Agnes had called off the wedding.

Heartbroken, and perhaps in the hope of healing his broken heart, Leedskalnin immigrated to America.

The then 31-year-old settled in Florida City, a small sparsely inhabited town at the southern tip of the Sunshine State.

But even Florida’s many charms — its beaches, swaying palm trees, and mild weather — did not help him forget the love that had become an obsession.

So in 1923, inspired by the young woman he could not forget, Leedskalnin began carving from the coral found under the soil of his property, eventually sculpting 1,100 tons of coral into an open-air “castle.”

This unique structure became a shrine to the love of his life, Agnes. His work continued for the next 28 years.

Working only at night, and without the aid of modern mechanics or hired hands, the Latvian lover toiled with more than three million pounds of oolite coral. Leedskalnin moved each piece using primitive tools he created from old car parts.

Did we mention he was only about 5 feet tall and weighed roughly 100 pounds?

For this reason alone, Leedskalnin’s castle has been compared to monumental accomplishments such as the pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in England, and the Taj Mahal in India.

Of course, it helps that Leedskalnin is said to have been a self-taught student of physics. He was also fascinated by ancient structures, such as the pyramids, which were also constructed without modern methods.

Wait for it!

But if you are in awe of this feat of tenacity and engineering … the best is coming!

In 1936, worried that Florida City was getting too crowded, Leedskalnin decided to move the castle 10 miles north to Homestead, where it now stands. Undaunted by the size of the task he set for himself, he moved the castle piece by piece. It took him three years to complete the relo.

At the entrance to the Coral Castle of Florida, which sits on three acres of land, an inscription greets visitors: “You will be seeing an unusual accomplishment.”

Coral Castle: A Monument To Unrequited Love In The Heart Of South Florida

Photo courtesy of Coral Castle via Facebook.

As promised, the site is full of magnificent sculptures, including a 9-ton gate that once moved with just the touch of a finger and rocking chairs made entirely of stone. An astronomy buff, Leedskalnin also built a 30-ton, 25-foot-tall telescope that he focused on the North Star.

Coral Castle: A Monument To Unrequited Love In The Heart Of South Florida

Photo courtesy of Coral Castle via Facebook.

The castle itself consists of 8-foot-tall walls and is divided into several sections, including a two-story stone tower where Leedskalnin lived without running water or electricity.

The bottom floor was a storage area for his tools and his equipment for radio waves, physics, and astronomy experiments. There is also a throne room with his 5-ton rocking chair. Next to it are smaller thrones for Agnes, a child, and a mother-in-law. He also carved a 2.5-ton heart-shaped for him and his lady love to sit.

Several times he invited Agnes to visit the castle, perhaps in the hopes that its magnificence would melt her heart, but she never accepted the invitation.

In 1951, Leedskalnin died of kidney failure and stomach cancer in a Miami hospital. But his beautiful monument to an unrequited love lives on.

If you go:

Located at 28655 South Dixie Highway, Miami, the Coral Castle Museum is open seven days a week beginning at 8 a.m.

For the cost of admission and hours of operation call 305-248-6345 or visit coralcastle.com.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Coral Castle: A monument to unrequited love in the heart of South FloridaCoral Castle: A monument to unrequited love in the heart of South Florida

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