It’s your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler the Boy on the Move, once again bringing you the best in last-minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months…
After we lived in Gibsonton for a while, my parents got a new gig about four hours away in Homestead, Flordia. Just like in Gibsonton, as we were settling into our new home, I took a walk to explore. I ended up finding a crazy-looking sculpture garden with little moons and planets!
Little did I know that I had just stumbled into the Coral Castle! Ed Leedskalnin’s Coral Castle!
Latvian immigrant Edward “Ed” Leedskalnin was born in 1887 to a poor farming family in Riga. He spent his childhood working in the fields with his older siblings before becoming a stonemason.
According to urban legend, Ed fell madly in love with a young Latvian lass (10 years his minor) named Agnes Scuffs (or Skuvst — the accounts vary). The two quickly became engaged despite the fact that Ed was 26 and Agnes, called his “Sweet Sixteen” by Ed, was only 16 (a bit creepy if you ask me). On the very day they were meant to be married, Agnes abandoned Ed at the altar, canceling the wedding. Utterly heartbroken, Ed became despondent and ultimately left Lativia for the U.S. in 1912. Ed’s grand-nephew Janus Leedskalnin said that “it is absolutely clear that Ed left for America because he was jilted by his bride.”
Even outside of Latvia, Ed was consumed by thoughts of his “Sweet Sixteen.” After moving to Florida in 1918, Ed began to think of how he might be able to honor his lifelong lost love. Unable to forget her, Ed — despite being chronically ill, 100 pounds, and only just over 5 feet tall — began building a monument to his lost lover…out of MASSIVE blocks of stone.
With only hand-held tools and his own strength, Ed moved over 1,100 TONS of “coral” rock (actually sedimentary rock or oolite limestone) under the cover of darkness. Each and every night, Ed would set out to work, undergoing a grueling task of hauling 30-odd ton blocks of sedimentary rock onto the site of his megalithic castle before sculpturing them. None of Ed’s neighbors ever seemed to witness his moving, placing, or carving. And he did all of this to honor his runaway bride…not the best inspiration in my opinion, but hey — he built a cool castle!
Some were suspicious of Ed’s nighttime activities. Certain onlookers thought the steadfast progress could only be the result of magic. Others believe that Ed’s backbreaking work could only have been done in one way: aliens. I kid you not: extraterrestrials in Florida (is it really that much of a stretch?)!
However he did it, when it was finally all done and finished, Ed offered tours to anyone who wanted them for 10 cents a pop. After 28 years of night-time work, I’m surprised he didn’t ask for more!
By the Winter of 1951, Ed’s life’s work caught up to him. He fell ill (perhaps his chronic “Lung Condition” aggravated by the years of hard work). Before leaving his epic monument to Agnes, Ed hung a simple sign on the entranceway to his testament of lost love: “Going to the hospital.” He didn’t provide a return date. He simply took a bus to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital and checked himself in. He died in his sleep three days later at age 64.
The Castle, an American Taj Mahal, was inherited by Ed’s nephew. The new owner sold the Coral Castle not three years after its maker died, and after that, it switched hands numerous times.
Today, the Castle remains to stand as a monument to love (kinda gross considering, you know, cooties) and a tourist attraction (it is sometimes called Flordia’s Stonehenge!).
You should stop by the next time you’re near the Everglades!
Until next time!
To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy Tyler’s latest book “Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida”. It is now available in paperback at most bookstores. Ask for it by name, and keep checking back for great cheap vacation ideas that might end up being the best vacation you ever had!