Traditionally, Valentine’s Day gifts fall somewhere between chocolate, flowers and jewelry, (not that we’re complaining) so it’s not terribly surprising that most of us aren’t on the receiving end of buildings, chairs or corinthian columns this Valentine’s Day. But monuments built to honor love aren’t as rare as you might think, and not only among royalty and billionaires.
Ed Leedskalnin was dumped by his fiance, Agnes Scuffs, days before their wedding in Latvia. He moved to the U.S. in 1923 and dedicated the rest of his days to constructing Rock Gate Park (Coral Castle) intended to win her back. Leedskalnin became a recluse at his monument in Florida, living self-sufficiently amongst furniture he also built himself, including a heart-shaped table. What’s even more impressive than Leedskalnin’s grand gesture (though Scuffs never did take him back) is that his construction method is so baffling and expert even Albert Einstein couldn’t figure it out. Leedskalnin was just 5 ft and 100 pounds yet managed to build a 40-foot-tall, 28-ton obelisk, among other things, using only homemade tools and with no additional help. Of course like all mysterious structures, it has been rumored that aliens may have had a hand in Leedskalnin’s engineering. Jon Pasturing, an engineer, told ABC News his best guess is pulleys. To this day, no one’s quite sure.
The Taj Mahal
A classic and enduring symbol of love, The Taj Mahal is a spectacular feat of architecture and engineering, from its 40-foot-tall minarets to its intricate carvings, inlaid stones, and calligraphy. Emperor Shah Jahan promised his dying wife, Empress Mumtaz Mahal, that he would build her a magnificent tomb, the likes of which the world had never seen. The Emperor certainly kept his promise. He wasn’t lacking in resources to honor his dearly departed one: the Taj Mahal took over 20 years and 20,000 workers to complete. After Shah Jahan died in 1666, he was buried beside his wife in the mausoleum.
In 1900, George C. Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, began building a modern-day castle as a symbol of his devotion to his wife, Louise, on Heart Island. The castle is, to say the least, extravagant: six stories, 120 rooms, a drawbridge, and its own powerhouse. In 1904, Louise died suddenly, and a grief-stricken Boldt halted all construction. For 73 years, the property was abandoned, until in 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority bought it for just $1. Since then, millions have been poured into the castle’s rehabilitation and revenue from tourists is funneled back into its upkeep.
The Persson’s house
Bo Persson built a log house from scratch for his wife Maine when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and could no longer use the stairs. Using some land he inherited, Bo set out to build a one-floored house for his beloved. Both practical and determined, he took a building course and practiced his skills on an outhouse before beginning construction. Bo shifted his car workshop to the back burner, and, three years after the plans were finalized, the house was finished and ready for use. “I am going to be old one day, too,” said Bo, “here we can each meet one another with our own walkers.”