Magic, Madness or Marvel?

Historic Coral Castle just might be a little bit of each

The Coral Castle is the kind of place locals can pass dozens of times and never stop to visit. It always seems a little too kitschy, too old-fashioned, as if maybe it’s just another quirky sideshow on the long list of Florida’s infamous tourist traps.

That kind of thinking is dead wrong. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places since 1984, the Coral Castle’s story starts in the 1920s with a 5-foot, 100-pound Lithuanian immigrant named Ed Leedskalnin. For 20 years, he toiled alone, building the mysterious, unusual monument to a lost love. Using simple, homemade tools, he capitalized on what he learned from his family’s tradition of stonemasonry and his early years in the United States working in mines and on lumber camps and farms.

But Leedskalnin didn’t completely lose his head to lost love; he turned the site into a money-making attraction, charging 10 cents for admission and 2 cents for a hot dog. In 1936, growth and development near his 1-acre site pushed him 10 miles north to the castle’s current site in Homestead. He was savvy enough to position his new location just off U.S. Highway 1, giving the state 7 of his 10 new acres to help build the highway.

Today, the site is often featured on reality TV programs about mysticism and aliens, but visitors need not believe the crazy rumors and speculation about magic, the supernatural and aliens. Leedskalnin clearly understood how to use physics and engineering to his advantage and how to sell his attraction. No one ever saw him working to put the rocks in place. Always building or moving pieces at night, he crafted seemingly impossible walls, sculptures and furniture from massive pieces of local coral rock. He quarried and carved slabs weighing 6, 9, 18 and 23-plus tons and moved them with pulleys and counterweights, using a system he kept secret and took to his grave. When he moved pieces from his first site, locals saw a tractor pulling the sculptures up the road, but never being loaded on or off.

Within thick surrounding walls, he built a castle tower with a workshop and austere living quarters. Enhancements included rocking chairs, reading chairs to catch the sun at just the right angle, a sundial, tables, beds, a Polaris telescope to spot the North Star, a fountain and more. Showing early awareness of the benefits of promotion, and recognizing the site’s growing popularity as a great photo opportunity, Leedskalnin built a stand to accommodate local photographers.

The entrance features a 3-ton triangular gate that even a child can easily rotate as it is balanced on the axle of a Model T Ford with a Coca-Cola bottle’s neck on the end.

Visitors should carve out about two hours to explore. It’s a great spot for a fun physics lesson—kids won’t even know they’re learning. Admission includes a one-hour tour, during which guides bring Leedskalnin’s story to life.

Leedskalnin died in 1951 at age 64, and probably would be pleased his work has been recognized. The Coral Castle is indeed a bit quirky, but quite interesting. 

Coral Castle

28655 S. Dixie Highway, Homestead 305.248.6345 coralcastle.com

You May Also Like

Sixth Sense: Inside an Upcoming Boutique Condo

Ocean Land promises an eco-friendly development in Fort Lauderdale.

Craig Zinn Automotive Group Helps Bring Animal-Assisted Therapy to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital With $500,000 Donation

Animal-assisted therapy has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and provide comfort and companionship to patients, including children.

Inside the Design: Adriana Hoyos

The globally renowned interior expert offers insights into her work at Shoma Bay.

Yupix and Lofty Brickell Team Up to Provide Next-Level Meta-Reality Tours

Potential buyers can now get a taste of what it’s like to live in a luxurious waterfront condo that will be located in Miami’s bustling Financial District.

Other Posts

NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale Launches Major Haitian Art Exhibit 

The work highlights 27 Haitian artists illuminating facets of Haiti’s political history and creative abundance.

John Knox Village Hosts Bevy of Performances at Cultural Arts Center 

Tickets are now available for spring and summer shows.

Habitat for Humanity of Broward Hosts Legislative Build Day

The nonprofit organization has assisted over 600 low-income families in discovering appropriate homes.

5 Musts in May

South Florida is buzzing with events, activities and destinations—as evidenced by this month’s to-do list.