Casa Loma Toronto which lies to the north west of the centre of the city is a sign of early 20th century affluence and a broken dream of someone who was greatly loved by the biggest city in Canada.
Casa Loma (Spanish for Hill House) was created for one of Toronto’s most successful businessmen, Sir Henry Pellatt. Styled as a castle it became the largest private residential address in all of Canada.
Work began on the home in 1911 by architect E.J. Lennox, covering nearly 200,000 square feet and a cost at the time of around $3.5m. Sadly the house was never fully completed and after a change in financial fortune, Sir Henry Pellatt, his wife Mary and son Reginald had to give up the home after 10 years of residence.
In spite of these films the one that really grabbed my attention and got me excited was that it was also used for some of the filming for “The Vow” starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. Not only is Rachel McAdams one of my favourite actress’ but I’d recently watched the film with my bride and we really liked it. (If you’d like to watch “The Vow” online now please click here.)
Brief history of Sir Henry Pellatt
Sir Henry Pellatt was one of Canada’s leading businessmen. He first rose to notoriety as he became involved in his father’s stock broking firm. His name was soon established and he was criticised by outsiders for his perceived risky purchase of various stocks and shares into companies involved in expansion across Canada such as railways and buying land.
At the turn of the century he’d hit on the idea of supplying hydro-electricity and moving the nation away from the pollution of coal energy. He set up the first electric powered street lighting of Toronto and he helped develop the power station based at Niagara Falls. (Little surprise that he made Casa Loma the first house in Canada to have electricity.) Such notable achievements were then scuppered when the Ontario Government nationalised his power business without any compensation.
Pellatt took on other business investments and then invested heavily in property in the second decade of the century. A number of these investments and his connections with a bank turned sour. He lost his fortune of millions and died as a pauper.
Sir Henry Pellatt served as a rifleman with The Queens Own Rifles of Canada. He was an active philanthropist and was well connected in society. He even had connections to the British Royal Family yet sadly never fulfilled his dream of hosting the royals at his Casa Loma Toronto.
My Casa Loma Toronto Canada visit
I visited Casa Loma in Toronto during the afternoon and spent more than 2 hours exploring. I was actually running short of time, I could easily spend 3 hours plus here to look around and recommend that you do the same.
The opening hours mean that the Casa Loma Toronto closes at 5pm so get there in plenty of time for your visit. The castle plays host to weddings and private functions so staff will be keen to free up the space for events.
In August 2014 it cost me $24 as an adult to visit Casa Loma, the castle of Canada.
The tour is a self guided audio tour. You collect your hand held audio guides from the Casa Loma Gift Shop in the basement.
I began the tour with the pictures displaying the various films which have shot scenes at Toronto’s Casa Loma house. I then quickly discovered what was to be the swimming pool for the house. You may remember that I said the house was never completed, well the swimming pool was one of those things which was never completed. (Such a shame, if I had enough money to build my own house then the indoor swimming pool would be a priority!).
I explored various grand rooms with wonderful furniture from 100 years ago.
There were fabulous paintings, ornaments and collectibles on display.
I soon learnt that the Casa Loma played an important part in the Second World War. The Stables were used as a base to develop anti-submarine detection devices. Previous attempts to develop these in the UK were put at risk due to air raid bombings of factories so the development work was moved to Toronto.
Access to the stables, and a vintage car collection was via an 800 foot tunnel. The tunnel was constructed since Sir Henry Pellatt was unsuccessful in persuading the council to close the road which lay between his Casa Loma castle and the out houses which were across the road. He didn’t want to be crossing the road and mixing with the locals whilst he was just attending to matters in his own grounds.
The stables and vintage car collection was certainly impressive and seeing a real life Model T Ford has to be a draw for some.
The out houses even including a Potting Shed and bees were also kept outside, they still are.
Returning to the main building of the Toronto castle allows you to explore the wonderful grounds. A water feature is present in the middle of the gardens and you can gain a fabulous view of the city of Toronto on the horizon.
The conservatory at the Casa Loma (which apparently featured in “The Vow”) was a wonderful, naturally lit place with highly detailed decoration.
As I ventured upstairs I discovered something which we might find strange today. Sir Henry Pellatt and his wife Lady Mary had separate sleeping areas. You had the Sir Henry Suite and then Lady Pellatt’s Suite. (Naturally the lady’s suite was bigger than the man’s.)
Apparently, it was considered a real luxury and a sign of great wealth 100 years ago to be able to have your own private area and bed away from your spouse. Little wonder they only had one child.
These suites were state of the art. Sir Henry’s bathroom was very modern for the time. No fabric (to avoid lingering germs), yet it included a flushing toilet, a bath and a shower. The shower was also designed with lots of sprays from the side to give a real pleasurable shower experience (unheard of at that time).
As I ventured further through the 98 room, 30 bathroom house I came across some of the 5 guest suites.
On the third floor were some commemorations to the First and Second World Wars. Sir Henry was a member of the Queen’s Own Rifles so the military was a prominent part of his life.
It was then possible to ascend further and go up to the Scottish Tower at the peak of Casa Loma Toronto. A clear sign of a Princess castle.
Sir Henry came from Scottish parents so I’m sure it was an influence. Some modification works were being performed on some of the towers at the time of my visit so I was only able to obtain some city views via a window.
Sadly it was then past 5pm and time for me to leave Canada’s only castle.
The Casa Loma of Toronto is a fairytale building with visual splendour. It seems Sir Henry had a wonderful aspiration for a luxurious life to really treat his wife to a home. Little wonder that soon after they were forced from the house due to financial hardship that his wife passed away.
The Haunting of Casa Loma
It is maybe of little surprise that there are rumours that Casa Loma is haunted. Ghost tours are available. The most common rumour is of a White Lady in the basement suspected to have been a maid at the castle. Although some claim this is the ghost of Lady Mary Pellatt. There are also stories (unsubstantiated) of the ghost of Sir Henry Pellatt sat in his study or looking angrily from a window at the visitors to the house.
There are even claims of the underground tunnel being haunted. Some claimed sightings include the ghost of horses which were being moved between the two sites.
Casa Loma is a celebration of one of Toronto’s most highly regarded businessmen, yet is also a sad story of a wonderful dream which came crashing down.
Casa Lomo Toronto is located just off Spadina Road and the address is 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, ON, M5R 1XB.
The opening hours of Casa Loma are 9:30am to 5pm daily. There maybe some variation on this due to events plus there are some late night openings during the summer months. Tickets can be bought on the day. Alternatively save up to 43% on the admission fee of Casa Loma and 4 other Toronto attractions (including CN Tower) with a Toronto City Pass.