Date: 1920 - 1951
Location: Homestead, FL
Edward Leedskalnin was jilted by his 16-year-old fiancée Agnes Scuffs in Latvia, just one day before the wedding. Leaving for America, he came down with allegedly terminal tuberculosis but spontaneously healed, stating that magnets had some effect on his disease.
Edward spent over 28 years building the Coral Castle, refusing to allow anyone to view him while he worked. A few teenagers, who claimed to have witnessed his work, reported that he had caused the blocks of coral to move like hydrogen balloons. The only tool that Leedskalnin spoke of using was a perpetual motion holder.
Leedskalnin originally built the castle, which he named Rock Gate Park, in Florida City, FL around 1923. He purchased the land from Ruben Moser whose wife helped assist him when he had a very bad bout with tuberculosis. Florida City, which borders the Florida Everglades, is the southernmost city in the United States that is not on an island. It was an extremely remote location with very little development at the time. The castle remained in Florida City until about 1936 when Leedskalnin decided to move and take the castle with him. No one knows for sure why Leedskalnin decided to relocate. The Coral Castle website states that he chose to move in order to protect his privacy when discussion about developing land in the area of the castle started. The second commonly held notion was that he wanted to relocate to a more populous locale after being badly beaten one night by hooligans looking to rob him. He spent three years moving the Coral Castle structures 10 miles north from Florida City to its current location in Homestead, FL.
The highlight of his work though, is a nine ton, 8' tall revolving stone gate set between two segments of the wall with only a quarter inch of clearance on either side. At one time the stone was so precisely balanced on an old truck bearing that it was said a child could spin the gate around with just a finger. When the bearing began to rust and had to be replaced in 1986, it took a team of six men and a 50-ton crane to remove the stone. The gate broke again in 2005, and even with today’s technology, it has never quite worked as smoothly as it had when Leedskalnin built it.
Leedskalnin continued to work on the castle up until his death in 1951. The coral pieces that are part of the newer castle, not among those transported from the original location, were quarried on the property only a few feet away from the southern wall. Leedskalnin charged visitors ten cents a head to tour the castle grounds. There are signs carved into rocks at the front gate to Ring Bell Twice, and a second sign just inside the property reads admission 10¢ Coral Castle Drop Below. He would come down from his living quarters which were the second story of the castle tower and are close to the gate and conduct the tour. Leedskalnin never told anyone that asked him how he made the castle. He would simply answer It's not difficult if you know how. If asked why he had made this castle, he would vaguely answer it was for his Sweet Sixteen.
When Leedskalnin became ill in December 1951, he put a sign on the door of the front gate Going to the Hospital, and took the bus to a Miami hospital. The doctors discovered Leedskalnin was suffering from malnutrition. He passed away in the hospital three days later.
While the property was being investigated, $3,500 was found among Leedskalnin's personal belongings. Leedskalnin had made his income from conducting tours, selling pamphlets about various subjects, including magnetic currents, and the sale of a portion of his ten acre property for the construction of U.S. Route 1. Having no will, the castle became the property of his closest living relative in America, a nephew from Michigan named Harry.
The Coral Castle website reports that the nephew was in poor health and he sold the castle to an Illinois family in 1953. However this story differs from the obituary of a former Coral Castle owner, Julius Levin, a retired jeweler from Chicago, IL. The obituary states Levin had purchased the land from the state of Florida in 1952 and may not have been aware there was even a castle on the land. The new owners changed the name of Rock Gate Park to Coral Castle and turned it into a tourist attraction. In January 1981, Levin sold the castle to the Coral Castle, Inc. for $175,000. They remain the owners today. In 1984, The National Register of Historic Places added Rock Gate, also known as Coral Castle, to its list of historic places.
Billy Idol wrote and recorded the song Sweet Sixteen and filmed the video in the Coral Castle. The song was inspired by the story of Leedskalnin's former love, who was the main reason Leedskalnin built the structure.