In 1992, Hurricane Andrew, a CAT 5 hurricane and the second most destructive hurricane in U.S. history, came down upon the tiny city of Homestead, Florida with full force. Homestead, its air force base, and a small CDP within it called Leisure City were massively damaged. It took years to rebuild Homestead into the boring, just-like-any-other plain Florida town that it is today, and even then, the air base is gone and is simply a reserve station now.
But there’s one piece of property in Leisure City that has become a kind of tourist attraction for those who are bored with Miami Beach. It is a place so tough that Hurricane Andrew didn’t even scratch it. It’s called Coral Castle.
Coral Castle is a stone structure located at the intersection of U.S. Route 1 (aka South Dixie Highway) and SW 288th Street (AKA Biscayne Drive). It’s made of huge stones of coral, each weighing several tons. There are approximately 1,000 tons of coral rock used in the walls and tower alone. And, supposedly, it was put together by only one man. A small framed, barely 100 pound man. A man named Edward Leedskalnin.
Ed was born in Latvia in 1887. He was poor with only a fourth grade education. And at the age of 26, he got engaged to a girl named Agnes who was 16 at the time. Ed referred to her as his “Sweet Sixteen.” It was not to be. The night before the wedding, “Sweet Sixteen” broke it off, saying Ed was too old. Ed later believed that it was also because he was too poor.
Ed left Latvia and arrived at the United States, working in lumber camps. In 1919 he moved to Florida to get over tuberculosis. In Florida City (a few miles away from Leisure City) he bought land and from 1923 to 1951 he constructed this thing we call Coral Castle, but what he referred to as Rock Gate Park. It was completely different from Rock Creek Park, although some Christian guy did write a song about the place years later. (Granted, he was no Donald Byrd).
Anyway, the story is this: Ed wanted to impress Agnes, the girl who rejected him. He figured a huge castle made of stone would do the trick and make her hop the nearest flight to Miami. He pulled coral out of the ground, supposedly all by himself, and nobody knows how he did it. A very private man, nobody ever saw him do the work. (Apparently he worked at night by lantern-light). Nobody knows how this frail, eccentric Latvian managed to carve, lift, and move tons and tons of heavy coral rock.