How One Florida Man Built the World's Most Mysterious Sculpture Garden

Coral Castle | © Christina Rutz / Flickr
Coral Castle | © Christina Rutz / Flickr
Photo of Aisha Moktadier
31 January 2017

Miami has a lively art scene throughout the city, from wall murals and bright paintings to interactive art pieces and sculptures. One structure that takes the cake for its uniqueness is Coral Castle, created by Latvian-American amateur sculptor Edward Leedskalnin.

At first glance, the structure seems like a bunch of large stone shapes haphazardly kept in a large yard. However, the Coral Castle actually has a rich history, with an intertwining romantic love story. The man behind the structure, Edward Leedskalnin, was born in Riga, Latvia in 1887. When he was 26 years old, he was set to marry the woman he loved, Agnes, who was 10 years his junior.

One day before their wedding, she called it off. Deeply heartbroken after the end of their relationship, he set out to create a structure that would be an ode to his love for Agnes.

Many artists take a tragedy and turn it into beauty, and it was no different for the heartbroken sculptor. What resulted from his sadness over the loss of his love was a beautiful yet bizarre collection of limestone structures. Edward carved and sculpted over 1,100 tons of coral rock to create Coral Castle. He had no help.

Coral Castle | Flickr/Milan Boers

Edward was only a little over five feet (1.5 meters) tall and weighed about 100 pounds (45.3 kilograms), which added more astonishment to the story behind his creation. Before living in Florida, he resided in Canada, California, and Texas, but when he contracted tuberculosis, he decided to move somewhere with weather that was better for his health. He first lived in an area called Florida City, from 1918 to 1936, but then moved to Homestead and bought 10 acres of land in 1936. The next three years involved moving structures he already made in Florida City to Homestead and putting together Coral Castle, originally called Rock Gate Park.

Edward was known as being a very private person, so much so that in order to protect his privacy, he moved his structures from Florida City to Homestead near lamplight while it was dark out. Once he moved everything to his new home, he started building walls around his structure.

With only a fourth-grade education, Edward moved blocks of coral and built an AC generator, which you can still see if you visit the sculpture garden; this continues to amaze people even today. Since there is a severe lack of witnesses who saw Edward do any of his work, engineers and scientists have been confused for years over how he was able to sculpt the limestone structures, build the walls surrounding them, and create an AC generator. People are so perplexed that they have compared his efforts to that of the Great Pyramids or Stonehenge.

Crescent Moon Well | Flickr/psyberartist

Edward also left behind five different written pamphlets: one that discusses Agnes plus domestic and political views; three about magnetic currents; and one that is about life’s cycle, titled “Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal Life.” These pamphlets are available at the Coral Castle gift shop.

Edward passed away in December 1951, and his nephew inherited the Castle. In 1953, before his nephew passed away, he sold the Castle to another family. While the Coral Castle shifted in ownership, Edward’s life savings were found, which totaled $3,500. He had made that money by giving tours of his sculpture garden for 10 to 25 cents. He also made money by selling pamphlets and land.

Guests are continually awed by the sculpture garden’s beauty and the story of love and heartbreak from which it sprouted.

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