Edward Leedskalnin (Latvian: Edvards Liedskalniņš) (August 10, 1887, Riga – December 7, 1951, Miami) was an eccentric Latvian emigrant to the United States and amateur sculptor who, it is alleged, single-handedly built the monument known as Coral Castle in Florida. He was also known for his unusual theories on magnetism.
Edward Leedskalnin was born January 12, 1887, according to World War I draft registration records, in Riga, Latvia. Little is known of his childhood, aside from the fact that he was not wealthy and achieved only a fourth-grade education. At the age of 25, he was engaged to marry Agnes Scuffs, a girl ten years younger. However, the girl that Leedskalnin referred to as his “Sweet Sixteen” broke the engagement the night before their wedding. Several years later, he emigrated to North America, where he found work in lumber camps in Canada, California, and Texas.
After contracting a case of tuberculosis, Leedskalnin moved to the warmer climate of Florida around 1919, where he purchased a small piece of land in Florida City. Over the next 20 years, Leedskalnin putatively constructed and lived within a massive coral monument he called “Rock Gate Park”, dedicated to the girl who had left him years before. Working alone at night, Leedskalnin, who weighed less than 100 lb (45 kg), eventually quarried and sculpted over 1,100 tons of coral into a monument that would later be known as the Coral Castle. Leedskalnin gave polite, but cryptic answers to visitors’ questions regarding his construction methods, which to this day remain a mystery. In spite of his private nature, he eventually opened his monument to the public, offering tours for 10 cents. He was a surprisingly accommodating host, even cooking hot dogs for visiting children in a pressure cooker of his own invention.
This building was originally located in Florida City in the 1920s; then in the mid 1930s Leedskalnin moved it single-handedly to its present location on a 10-acre (4.0 ha) site near Homestead, Florida.
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