There are many motivations for creating one’s own castle.
Divine inspiration, as a way of cheating death, as a monument to human ability, or simply a compulsive inability to stop building. However, few motivators are as strong as the sorrow of lost love. When Latvian Ed Leedskalnin was jilted by his sweet sixteen the day before their wedding, it was to send him on a mysterious and marvelous path of creation.
The Coral Castle, originally dubbed Rock Gate Park by Leedskalnin, is perhaps the most mysterious of all the world’s self-built castles. After his heartbreak, Ed moved to the US and eventually to Florida where he began working on his home and great monument to lost love. Born in 1887 to a family of Latvian stone masons, the 5-foot 100-pound Ed used his inherited skills to move blocks of Oolitic Limestone (fossilized coral) over 25 feet tall and weighing over 30 tons. This makes some of the stones in the Coral Castle taller than those in Stonehenge and heavier than the heaviest stone in the great pyramid of Giza.
The castle contains many wonders including a sundial, a stone rocking chair, a 500-pound heart-shaped stone table (a “Valentine” for his lost love), and a 9-ton gate made to spin with just a light touch. Ed was secretive, working on the castle mostly at night, and keeping to a policy of letting no one see his working methods. This led to much speculation that Ledeskalnin used some magical or ancient power to move the giant stones. Perhaps what is more impressive than imagined powers is that this small Latvian man spent his entire life cutting and moving these massive stones as a monument to his lost “Sweet Sixteen.”
We explored the Coral Castle on Obscura Day - March 20th, 2010. Photos, stories and more here