When in 1911 business magnate Sir Henry Pellatt commissioned famed Toronto
architect E.J. Lennox to build a medieval-style castle overlooking the city of
Toronto for himself and his wife, he planned to spend $250,000—a lot in
Casa Loma's conservatory boasts exotic plants and an imported
Photo: Tourism Toronto
As it turned out, they would spend that much just on the stone wall
surrounding Casa Loma, which is Spanish for "house on the hill."
Construction of Casa Loma took 300 men nearly three years to complete.
The castle ended up costing Pellatt around $3.5 million, and plans for
indoor rifle range, swimming pool, and three bowling alleys in the basement
had to be discarded due to the mounting costs.
At age 23, Pellatt became a full partner in his father's brokerage firm,
Pellatt and Pellatt, and made his fortune by investing in Northwest Land
Company and the Canadian Pacific Railway. He also founded the Toronto Electric
Light Company in 1883, which in the years to come eventually monopolized
street lighting throughout the city.
However, Pellatt went into debt when ownership of electricity became public
and the economy slumped after World War I.
The Pellatts lived in the 98-room castle for only 10 years before financial
hardship caused them to auction off its furnishings for a fraction of their
original cost and move to more humble
Casa Loma is known for its massive towers, intricate wood carvings,
gardens, and hidden passageways. Though its original owners could not afford
to live there for long, today anyone can enjoy its opulence.
Photo: Tourism Toronto
Casa Loma stood empty for about a decade, and various schemes for the
property, such as one that converted the castle into a hotel, failed.
Thanks to the conservation efforts of the city of Toronto, which assumed
ownership of the site in the 1930s, and the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma, which
operates it, Casa Loma is open to visitors and has become a popular venue for
weddings and other events.
Visitors have plenty at which to marvel. Just across from the main entrance
stands the grand library, with its herringbone hardwood floors. Grand glass
and wood cabinets can store 10,000 books, which during Pellatt's stay
consisted mostly of those on gardening and military history.
The Pellatt family crest is molded on the Elizabethan-style ceiling and
reads, "Devant Si Je Puis," or "Foremost If I
The conservatory is a sort of oasis standing at the end of Peacock Alley,
the main hallway on the first floor of the castle. Here, Pellatt spared no
expense. He imported Italian marble for the floor and fashioned each of the
two $10,000 bronze and glass doors after those in an Italian villa he
The conservatory's stained-glass ceiling dome was also imported from Italy.
The round room housed a number of exotic plants, and to ensure that they
survived, steam pipes were buried in the flower beds.
The Oak Room boasts oak panels carved so intricately that they were first
displayed in the Musee Beaux Arts in Montreal in 1913 before being installed
in Casa Loma. Italian craftsmen were brought to Toronto to carve the oak
panels and the molded plaster ceiling.
The Pellatts' private quarters occupy a large portion of the castle's
second floor. Lady Pellatt's bedroom, bathroom, sitting room, and balcony
occupy 3,000 square feet. Sir Pellatt's quarters are smaller, but include an
18-inch-diameter showerhead in his bathroom.
Sometimes, the parts of the castle that are hidden are just as fascinating
as those that are on display.
For instance, there are hidden stairways that lead from Pellatt's study to
a wine cellar in the basement and to a second-floor hallway.
There is also an 800-foot tunnel 18 feet below ground that leads from Casa
Loma to the estate's elaborate stables, where gold name plates for the horses
used to adorn each of the mahogany stalls. Stable floors are constructed with
Due to the gradual deterioration of certain structures, in 1996 an
elaborate restoration of the castle and stables began.
The grounds of the estate also feature five acres of gardens.
A self-guided digital audio tour in eight languages (English, French,
Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean) is available for a
Casa Loma is located at 1 Austin Place, a short walk from the Dupont
subway stop. It is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for
adults aged 18 to 59 $7.50 for those aged 60 and up. There are discount rates
for youngsters under age 18. More information about Casa Loma is posted at<www.casaloma.org/>.▪