Have you heard Billy Idol’s song “Sweet Sixteen?” Maybe you’ve hummed the lyrics in your car while jamming to 80s rock music. “I’ll do anything for my sweet sixteen, and I’ll do anything for my little runaway child…” Do you know the story behind it? It’s a tribute to Edward Leedskalnin, his broken heart, and the Coral Castle.
Who is Edward Leedskalnin? Let’s look at how this man-made history, why Billy Idol wrote a song about him, and what made him famous.
The History of Coral Castle
This wasn’t a well-documented event. In fact, Leedskalnin completed all of his work at night and in secret. No one really knows how he accomplished this feat, so there’s an air of mystery and enchantment surrounding Coral Castle.
The Man Behind Coral Castle
Edward Leedskalnin was a small man, just over 5 feet tall and weighing a mere 100 lbs. An immigrant from Latvia, he arrived in Florida City in 1919. He spent 18 years there before moving to Homestead.
Interestingly, Leedskalnin had already started his coral construction and had to move three years’ worth of work to Homestead. Without modern construction equipment, Leedskalnin claimed that he knew the secrets used to build the ancient pyramids.
He also came from a family of stonemasons in Latvia. However, since no one witnessed his craftsmanship, some people believed he had supernatural powers.
The story behind his art centers on his broken heart. Leedskalnin moved to the United States immediately after his love, Agnes Scuffs, left him a day before their wedding in Latvia. He called her his “Sweet Sixteen,” which is reflected in Billy Idol’s song. According to the story, Leedskalnin worked tirelessly to build the monument as a tribute to his lost love.
After his death, Leedskalnin bequeathed his Coral Castle to a nephew who sold it right before his death to a family in Illinois. They preserved the monument as a museum and added it to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
How Was the Coral Castle Constructed?
Leedskalnin constructed Coral Castle at night and shrouded it in mystery, so no one knows. However, there have been comparisons to the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, and the great pyramids of Egypt.
It truly is a work of art, apparently crafted by hand without the aid of any modern mechanics or conveniences. There is no mortar, just the weight of each stone holding it in place.
When asked about his methods, he would just say that he understood the laws of weight and leverage. You can view the primitive tools he used during his process when touring the Coral Castle.
He used old car parts to manufacture the tools. It’s estimated that Leedskalnin worked with more than 3 million pounds of oolite coral.
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Does Coral Castle Have Any Real Coral?
Coral Castle is made from oolite limestone and not real coral. Oolite limestone is a sedimentary rock that may contain concentrations of coral.
It’s found all over southeastern Florida beneath the topsoil. The original name given by Leedskalnin was Rock Gate, but the Illinois owners renamed it Coral Castle.
Legends Behind the Limestone
As mentioned above, some people believed Leedskalnin had supernatural powers. Others explain that since Coral Castle is positioned on the earth’s natural harmonic grid, the magnetism, levitation, and electrical current helped make its construction easier.
What we do know is that Leedskalnin had a great understanding of physics. His background in stonemasonry skills certainly aided in his endeavor to build this monument to his true love. And apparently, he had some blacksmith skills to turn the old car parts into workable tools.
Visiting Florida’s Coral Castle
When you first arrive, you’ll immediately notice the gigantic oolite coral walls measuring 8 feet tall, 4 feet wide, 3 feet thick, and weighing more than 5.8 tons. You can also view the world’s only sundial with seasons carved out of coral rock.
Other structures include a 9-ton gate and a 3-ton gate you can move with just a finger. Audio stands are situated throughout the Coral Castles and offer English, Spanish, French, and German narrations. There are also guides who will give tours.
How to Get There
Coral Castle’s website suggests using “Homestead” instead of “Miami” for better directions. You can take I-75 to the Florida Turnpike or Krome Avenue from the northwest. From the west, take Tamiami Trail (also called 8th Street) to Krome Avenue.
Take I-95 to the Florida Turnpike from the north, and from the south, take US Highway 1. If you’re staying in the Miami area, specific directions are on the website based on your location in Miami.
Guests aged 13 years old and up pay $18 per ticket, children from ages 7 to 12 pay $8 per ticket, and children under age seven are free. Group rates are also available, but you must call or email to make reservations.
You can also call to book private events. Coral Castle is a great setting for weddings, birthday parties, family reunions, and other gatherings.
When to Visit Coral Castle
Coral Castle is open Thursday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The last tour begins at 5:00 p.m. The Florida weather is generally nice all-year except for the hurricane season during the later summer and fall months. It can be quite hot during the summer months and crowded since it’s peak tourist season.
The winter months are also prime tourist season, as snowbirds travel south to escape harsh winters up north. However, the weather is much more enjoyable during the winter season. If you want to escape crowds and enjoy comfortable weather, the spring would be a great time to visit the Coral Castle.
Pro Tip: Traveling through Florida with a furry friend? We found The 7 Most Dog-Friendly Beaches in Florida.
What to Expect from a Visit to the Coral Castle
Visitors marvel at this wonder. Knowing Leedskalnin used no modern technology to aid him makes viewing Coral Castle even more impressive. It’s also a work of art.
The beauty of the scenery embraces guests as they walk through the megalithic stone structures. If you’re planning a trip to the Miami area, put Coral Castle on your list of places to visit.
Will you visit Coral Castle? Drop a comment below!
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