Coral Castle: Testament To A Broken Heart

Almost a hundred years ago in southern Florida, a heartbroken man accomplished something incredible.

Edward Leedskalnin was an immigrant from Latvia. He moved to Florida in 1918 hoping to cure his tuberculosis. But it wasn’t only his lungs that were sick; his heart was sick too. When he was 26 back in Latvia, so the story goes, he had been engaged to Agnes Scuffs, ten years his junior. His “Sweet Sixteen” jilted him the day before the wedding and poor Ed never recovered. He immigrated first to Canada, then the United States, working various jobs before making it to Florida. He never got over his lost love and never married.

That heartbreak led to an obsession.

Over the course of 28 years, he excavated more than 1,000 tons of bedrock and constructed a weird fantasyland of towers, sculptures and furniture out of massive stone blocks. The result was Coral Castle. Hints of his lost love can been found all over, such as the heart-shaped table and the stone cradle that’s so well balanced it can rock. There are stranger objects too, like an elaborate sundial and a tube through which you can see the North Star.

%Gallery-159645%Leedskalnin usually worked at night and didn’t let people watch him. This created an air of mystery around it and led to claims that he used magical forces to build the castle. After all, people asked, how could a 5-foot-tall tubercular man move such massive stones? Actually Leedskalnin came from a family of stone masons and used this knowledge to make his amazing creations. A few photographs show him using devices such as a block and tackle to move the stones.

Coral Castle isn’t a castle and it isn’t made of coral. In fact it’s made of oolitic limestone, but that doesn’t sound nearly as romantic. Not that it matters, the whole place is romantic. While the object of Leedskalnin’s love never came to Coral Castle despite many invitations, countless other people have visited and been inspired. Billy Idol wrote his song “Sweet Sixteen” about the story and exploitation director Doris Wishman filmed her bizarre “Nude on the Moon” there. Hit the link to see the trailer for this 1961 nudie cutie, but be warned it’s not work safe.

Coral Castle is in Homestead, Florida, and is open every day of the week. Check out the gallery to see some of the amazing monuments Leedskalnin made to his lost love. Also check out our article on Mystery Hill, an equally strange place in New Hampshire.

Mona Lisa mob marvels Miami

It’s the most iconic painting ever made. The Mona Lisa, painted in the early 16th century by Leonardo Da Vinci, has inspired a whole genre of painting. Perhaps the first imitation was this one by Gian Giacomo Caprotti, Da Vinci’s favorite pupil.

Since then the Mona Lisa has been reproduced on countless coffee mugs, handbags, t-shirts, mousepads, even toothpaste.

Now the Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College is examining this artistic obsession with Mona Lisa Unveiled, an exhibition that traces the influence of Mona Lisa on subsequent artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Jean Margat, and Salvador Dalì.

The painting inspired thieves too. The exhibition marks the 100th anniversary of the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. An Italian named Vincenzo Peruggia hid in a broom closet until the museum closed, and then made off with the painting. He later claimed he wanted it returned to its native Italy. He fled to Florence and kept it in his apartment for two years before trying to sell it to a local gallery. The art dealer did the right thing and called the cops. Peruggia was hailed as an Italian hero and only did a few months in prison.

Mona Lisa Unveiled runs through October 7.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]