Casa Loma in Toronto
Casa Loma (Spanish for Hill House) is a Gothic Revival style house in midtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada, that is now a museum and landmark. It was originally a residence for financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt. Casa Loma was constructed over a three-year period from 1911–1914. The architect of the mansion was E. J. Lennox, who was responsible for the designs of several other city landmarks.
In 1903 Sir Henry Pellatt purchased 25 lots from developers Kertland and Rolf. Sir Henry commissioned Canadian architect E.J. Lennox to design Casa Loma with construction beginning in 1911, starting with the massive stables, potting shed and Hunting Lodge (a.k.a. coach-house) a few hundred feet north of the main building. The Hunting Lodge is a two storey 4380 sqft house with servant's quarters. As soon as the stable complex was completed, Sir Henry sold his summer house in Scarborough to his son and moved to the Hunting Lodge. The stables were used as a construction site for the castle (also served as the quarters for the men servants), with some of the machinery still remaining in the rooms under the stables. The house cost approximately $3.5 million and took a team of 300 workers three years to build from start to finish. Unfortunately, due to the start of World War I, construction on the house was halted. At 98 rooms, it was the largest private residence in Canada. Notable amenities included an elevator, an oven large enough to cook an ox, two vertical passages for pipe organs, central vacuum, two secret passages in Sir Henry's ground-floor office and three bowling alleys (never completed).
Most of the third floor was left unfinished, and today serves as the Regimental Museum for The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. Pellatt joined the Regiment as a Rifleman and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the Commanding Officer. He was knighted for his dedication to the Regiment. Later, Pellatt served as the Honorary Colonel and was promoted to Major-General upon retirement.
During the depression that followed World War One, the City of Toronto increased Casa Loma's annual property taxes from $600 per year to $1,000 a month, and Pellatt, already experiencing financial difficulties, was forced to auction off $1.5 million in art and furnishings for only $250,000. Sir Henry was able to enjoy life in the house for less than ten years, leaving in 1923. It was later operated for a short time as a luxury hotel. During the late 1920s Casa Loma was also a popular nightspot. The Orange Blossoms, later known as Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, played there for eight months in 1927–1928. Shortly thereafter, they went on tour of North America and became a major swing era dance band.
The city seized Casa Loma in 1933 for $27,303 in back taxes.
The castle was extremely run down and the city was motioning for the castle to be demolished. In 1937, however, it was leased by the Kiwanis Club of Toronto (currently known as the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma). Today, Casa Loma is undergoing a 15 year exterior restoration.
During World War II, Casa Loma was used to conceal research on sonar, and for construction of sonar devices (known as ASDIC) for U-boat detection.
Contrary to popular belief, Casa Loma has never been an official residence of either the city of Toronto or the Province of Ontario. In 1937 it was opened to the public for the first time as a tourist attraction operated by the Kiwanis Club of Toronto. Coincidentally, this is the same year that Chorley Park, the Government House of Ontario, was closed by the provincial government. The house is still operated by the Kiwanis Club. Today it is one of Toronto's most popular tourist attractions. In May 2011 the City of Toronto announced plans to resume management of Casa Loma after reaching a financial settlement with the Kiwanis Club.
Casa Loma has five acres of gardens. An underground tunnel connects Casa Loma to the Hunting Lodge and to The Stables (Garage, Potting Shed, Stalls, Carriage Room and Tack Rooms).
- Great Hall
- Dining Room
- The Conservatory
- Serving Room
- Peacock Alley
- Sir Henry's Study
- Smoking Room
- Billiards Room
- Oak Room
- Sir Henry's Suite
- Sir Henry's Bathroom
- Lady Pellatt's Suite
- Lady Pellatt's Bathroom
- Girl Guides Exhibit
- Guest Suite
- Windsor Room
- Round Room
- The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum
- Stairs to Towers
- The Kiwanis Room
- The Garden Room
- Servant's Room
- The Austin Room
- Gift Shop (Bowling lanes and shooting range - never completed)
- Castle Café (Gymnasium - never completed)
- Swimming Pool (Never completed)
- Wine Cellar
- Tunnel to Hunting Lodge and Stables
- Potting Shed
- Carriage Room
- Tack Rooms
- Hunting Lodge
During World War 2, the stables of Casa Loma served as the site for the development of ASDIC, which stands for Anti-Submarine Detection investigation Committee, an early sonar apparatus.
- Parking lots
Sir Henry imported artisans from Europe to design much of the furniture and other features of the castle, a few of which can be seen in the images below.
Casa Loma is on Austin Terrace, at the north end of Spadina Road on an escarpment (Davenport Hill) above Davenport Road. Davenport runs along the bottom of the escarpment which was the shoreline of Lake Iroquois, the predecessor of Lake Ontario (coordinates ). Casa Loma affords views down the escarpment and Spadina Avenue into the heart of Toronto.
The stables are located at 330 Walmer Road and the Hunting Lodge at 328 Walmer Road.
Casa Loma is served by St. Clair West Station on the Yonge-University-Spadina line of the Toronto subway.
Casa Loma in popular culture
Due to its unique architectural character in Toronto, Casa Loma has been a popular location for movies and TV. For example, it has served as a location for movies such as X-Men, Strange Brew, Chicago, The Tuxedo, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Warehouse 13, and The Pacifier. Comic books and children's novels that have used it include the Scott Pilgrim series and Eric Wilson's murder mystery, The Lost Treasure of Casa Loma. It was also temporarily transformed into Hogwarts for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In the CBC Television show Being Erica, the episode "Mi Casa, Su Casa Loma" features Casa Loma prominently as the place where main character Erica Strange works. Casa Loma is also mentioned in Canadian poet Dennis Lee's 1970 children's poem "Wiggle to the Laundromat", in the collection Alligator Pie: “Wiggle to the laundromat,/Waggle to the sea;/ Skip to Casa Loma/ And you can't catch me!”. It also served in the movie adaption of R.L. Stine's novel A Night In Terror Tower. Casa Loma also features prominently in the biography-documentary of Sir Henry Pellatt, The Pellatt Newsreel: the Man who Built Casa Loma which appeared on the Biography Channel and was nominated for a 2009 Gemini for Best Biography Documentary.
Girl Guiding at Casa Loma
Lady Pellatt frequently invited the Girl Guides to her home. Their first visit was in 1913 when 250 girls and their leaders toured the conservatories, the stables, climbed the circular staircase to the top turret and then were served tea in the Palm Room. In March 1914, Lady Pellatt watched the Guides annual fête from her bedroom window as she was too ill to leave her room. Rallies became an annual event at the house. Guides also skated on the house's curling rink in winter.
- Spadina House
- Mary Lake Augustinian Monastery