Coral CastleEd Leedskalnin (1887 - 1951)
About the Artist/Site
Born in Stameriena parish, approximately 116 miles from the capital city of Riga, Latvia, to a family of stone masons, Leedskalnin immigrated to the New World and, at age 26, became engaged to his sixteen-year-old sweetheart, Agnes Scuffs. When she cancelled the wedding the day before the ceremony, Leedskalnin was heartbroken; although he left very little information behind about the monumental art environment he later spent twenty-eight years building, we have been led to believe that it was created both as an homage to his “Sweet Sixteen” and as a means to help him work through his heartache.
After living in Canada, California, and Texas, Leedskalnin moved to Florida in an attempt to assuage his tuberculosis. Settling in Florida City in 1918, in 1928 he began to sculpt the coral that underlays the ground, using no heavy machinery nor profiting from any outside assistance. In 1936 he purchased ten acres of land in the newly developing community of Homestead, ten miles away, and moved his carvings by laying rails on an old truck and having a friend with a tractor pull them to the new site.
Drawing on his knowledge of masonry, Leedskalnin continued to carve, ultimately sculpting over 1100 tons of coral rock. He finished most of the interior by 1940, and then set about erecting eight-foot-high walls around the site, each four feet wide and three feet thick. He earned his living by giving tours of his carvings for fees ranging from 10 cents in Florida City to 25 cents in Homestead, and from the sale of five pamphlets that discussed his work and his ideology. Too, he received some funds for the right of way when U.S. Highway 1 was constructed near the Castle.
After Leedskalnin’s death, the property passed to a nephew, then to a family from Illinois. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, under its original name, Rock Gate Park. The Castle and surrounds are now open daily to the public as a museum; fee required.
~Jo Farb Hernández, 2013
SPACES Archives Holdings
1 folder: clippings, correspondence, pamphlets, 35mm slides
Map & Site Information
28655 South Dixie Highway
Homestead, Florida, 33033 us
Latitude/Longitude: 25.5003182 / -80.44443
Key West, Florida
La Havane, La Havane
La Habana, La Habana