Hollywood Beach, Florida
Each year in March my family and family friends make the sojourn down to Hollywood Beach, Florida, where we enjoy our spring break amongst the elderly. Let me repeat for any future spring breakers who might decide to join our ranks next year: as some poor University of Virginia students have now learned- the pace is slow here in Hollywood, not because people are spritzing Coronas with limes under the sun in tiny bikinis all day, but because the average age in this seaside town is way over sixty-five. Just a friendly public advisory for those really intent on the full spring break Florida party experience.
lifeguard stand, Hollywood, Florida
broadwalk, Hollywood, FL
We decided to change the formula this week and instead of spending every waking moment by the pool next to the beach (some in the family wouldn’t want to get too uncomfortable about all that pesky sand by the ocean), we hopped on the turnpike and drove several miles south to Homestead, Florida, home of Coral Castle. A friend had recommended it, speaking of an odd castle constructed out of coral in the 1920s.
on the road in Florida
Coral Castle entrance
Just a turn off of Route 1 led us into a small parking lot next to a quaint castle topped with towers, planets and moons, all carved out of coral and surrounded, almost surreally, by the modern world. After paying the modest entrance fee, we passed a small pit with a sign reading, “Ed’s Stone Quarry, Where He Acquired the Coral for the Castle.” I immediately felt relieved to realize the coral had not been dragged out of the ocean, but rather quarried right out of the ground.
Coral Castle quarry
inside Coral Castle, FL
Inside, a quick glance showed tables of different shapes were surrounded by chairs, all carved out of the coral, not a bright peach pink but aged and grey as rock. Fountains lay filled with water and trees grew out of coral. The coral rocks making up the surrounding walls were gigantic and heavy, some weighing up to twenty-nine tons. We quickly jumped in with a group beginning their guided tour.
It was not the castle that was intriguing so much as the story of its creation. For all this had been done by one man, in the dark of night, with no explanation of how he had moved the giant rocks, cutting and lifting them out of the ground with simple tools without leaving any marks, other than the cryptic, “I used the secrets the Egyptians used to create the pyramids.”
Leedskalnin’s magnetic current
What that secret was, was up to great debate because Edward Leedskalnin was not your average person. Sure he had a career in masonry, but he also played around with magnetic currents and electricity. He wrote a pamphlet entitled “Magnetic Current
,” where he swore that everything we thought about natural sciences was wrong. He claimed everything had a north and south pole and interconnected that way. He also claimed he had patented a perpetual motion device, that would be capable of providing free energy to all, which the government wanted badly to make go away, as it would have conflicted greatly with major oil and power interests. I found this particular aspect of the tour quite interesting, as Kevin had been up all night reading about perpetual motion devices just the other week.
repentance corner… not really his best idea…
Through a small box with speakers “Edward” told a story of a lost love, and a desire to win her back through the building of the castle. Maybe fate had worked in her favor. In one corner of the castle, Ed had designed a “Repentance Corner”, where two long open slats in the boulder had round holes at the top, similar to a keyhole. If his potential future children or wife did wrong, Ed imagined having them slide their necks through the hole and down. Then, after he had put a wooden board on top to keep them in, Ed would sit on his nearby bench to deliver them a lecture.
on the throne!
bathtub made of coral
He had constructed coral thrones, coral rocking chairs, coral beds and a coral bathtub and shaving pond, coral chairs around coral tables, one in the shape of Florida in case the governor might want to visit and discuss the future of the state.
Ed’s interest in astronomy was reflected everywhere, with stars and moons and planets carved all over, and a tall pointed rock called the telescope, where one could gaze up at the north star any time of the year. His fascination with Egypt was everywhere too; even a mighty obelisk devoted to Ed and the castle stood near the Repentance corner.
More unusual was the 9-ton gate. Edward had somehow lifted a nine-ton rock out of the ground, found the center of balance (not easy to do on porous coral), and placed it within a quarter inch of the surrounding walls, so that with just the touch of a finger even a child could swing the gate open and shut. When eventually the bearings broke, modern engineers were only able to fix it for a while. It took a team of men and a crane to do it, and in the long run they broke it more than fixed it. At one time a team of scientists came down, scanned the rocks, did all sorts of measurements, and concluded that they could not explain how Edward Leedskalnin was able to do it. Did I mention that he was littler than me, five foot tall and about a hundred pounds?
He led a life like a hermit with grandiose plans and aims, compared himself to Tesla, and whatever his strengths or weaknesses, was undeniably genius in his ability with the rocks.
inside the castle/gardens
It’s not a huge property, and maybe one has seen bigger and better castles, most of it is an open garden after all. But it’s one of those places that becomes more intriguing the more you look into it, the more you look at the boulders and wonder. When you flex your thoughts and try to imagine how on earth it was done, then the true awe and mystery of the place opens up to you.
Only in staring at the giant masses of the coral can you get a feel for the accomplishment it was for one man to be able to construct what some call the “American Stonehedge.”
some of Coral Castle’s planets and moons