Today has been a really fabulous day. We got up early and knocked out math lessons - in a new book, since we just wrapped up the last book of Math-U-See lessons, woot! - and did a writing prompt. All three kids took their spelling pre-tests, and then we picked up our pal Victoria to go on a field trip to nearby Coral Castle. Ed Leedskalnin, a 5'-tall Latvian man who built the castle in response to being dumped the day before he was to wed his "Sweet Sixteen," Agnes Scuffs. This is the sign posted at the entrance to the castle, by Ed, and it was no lie.
Jack, Chloe, Victoria, and Sophia ready and waiting for our tour to start
Tom, our tour guide, was fantastic. He was not only great with adults and kids alike, but he was thoroughly knowledgeable about the site. We really enjoyed his constantly running dialogue and trivia.
Tom pointed out that Ed charged 10-cents' admission to the castle back when he was alive. Ed died in 1951, and there are still people alive who remember him, of course. I think that is so cool, considering the castle, formerly known as "Rock Gate Park," has been compared to Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids.
The girls sitting at Ed's Florida-shaped coral table, on chairs that actually used to rock, but were buried to keep people from getting injured. Each chair weighs about a half-ton each, so imagine if someone's foot got caught under it when it rocked. These aren't really coral structures at all, however, but rather limestone. Close enough, eh?
Chloe looking through the handmade telescope. If one looks through the hole in the wall, up to the pillar with the hole in it, one will find Polaris. There are crosshairs that you can't see up there, and depending on which quarter of the circle Polaris falls into, it tells you what season you're in. Amazing, to me.
Part of Ed's tools, many of which were made by hand
More of Ed's tools
Ed bunked down in this small room on top of the tool shed, so that when he slept, all of Florida's nighttime creepy crawlies didn't climb on him.
Sophia said that Ed's bed actually looked "quite comfortable." As her big sister would say, "I could not agree less!"
The three-ton gate is triangular in shape. There are no gears or bearings in the rotating mechanism. Ed balanced the gate on the axle of a Model T Ford with a Coke bottle neck on the end, through which the axle could be lubricated.
Ed's living room
This rocking chair, up high, was off limits for visitors.
Ed was a Mason, and you can see some of the Masonic symbols around the premises, including here in the throne room. Ed never did find another wife to join him in life and died alone of cancer, after suffering from tuberculosis for many years.
You may remember that we make a wish at every wishing fountain we see - of course, this was no different at Ed's wishing well. Jack said his probably wouldn't come true, so I had to know what he wished for. "LEGO sets!" he said. C'mon, Buddy, wait 'til Christmas at least...
Ed's sundial was so interesting, because it not only told a person the time of day, but also the month and season to boot. I can't tell you how much I wish I had had a chance to meet him! (Incidentally, he died at the hospital where Rob's brain surgery was, and where Victoria told me she was born.)
The second of two rock gates. This one also used to spin on a well-lubricated axle, but natural forces from our local salty climate corroded the metal inside. So engineers came and tried to fix it, but they could not. Imagine that! Ed built this place with his bare hands and no electricity decades ago, but modern technology could not replicate what he did. Wow.
The bedroom Ed built for the family he never had
Ed built this part of the castle in homage to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
A little reading nook
This was where Ed did his cooking. The cooker is part oven, part barbecue, and more. The fire is built in the pit; the pipe embedded below serves as a down draft, and the hole in the roof vents the smoke. The cooking pot is the rear end housing of an old Ford and hangs on a pully riding on a rail. Food was placed in the container, which seals itself when taken off the stand and pushed over the fire. It acts as a pressure cookier - another of Ed's hand-made marvels! The tour guide said it holds about a dozen hot dogs, and Ed enjoyed using it for cooking hot dogs for school children on the tour.
I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of something that one must really properly experience in person!
The kids behaved beautifully during our long and long-winded tour. Tom commented on how well they paid attention, and all the adults on the tour were impressed when Jack correctly guessed "gravity" in answer to how some of the rocks were moved. I didn't even know the answer, myself! I bought each of the kids a round of Dippin' Dots before we headed over to the library for our weekly visit.
Stay tuned, as we have LOTS more field trips coming up in future weeks!