Casa Loma is located at 1 Austin Terrace (bordered by Davenport Rd, Walmer Rd and Spadina Park) in the aptly named Casa Loma neighbourhood of Toronto. The castle can also be reached via the Baldwin Steps.
The Architecture of “Hill House”
Sir Henry Pellatt built the magnificent home. Construction on Casa Loma began in 1910, and by 1913, the Pellatt’s moved into the not-quite-completed castle on the hill. Completed the following year, it took 300 men to build the 200,000-square-foot mansion at the cost of $3.5 million.
Sir Pellatt founded the Toronto Electric Light Company in 1883 when he was in his mid 20’s and, with it, supplied street lighting and introduced streetcars to the City. He was also a philanthropist, successful stockbroker, a chairman of over 20 companies, developed hydroelectric power in Niagara Falls and received a knighthood for his 20 years as a commander in the Queen’s Own Rifles. His wife, Lady Pellatt, helped found the Girl Guides of Canada. Their fortunes allowed them to build the largest house in the country.
The Toronto landmark was designed by architect EJ Lennox with Medieval and early Renaissance architectural influences. The land was named by its previous owner, which means “Hill House” in Spanish. The 3-storey home has three towers, including a squared tower above the north entrance, around a 5-storey tower to the west and a spectacular stepped conical roof to the east. The elegant home also features turrets, balconies, bays, oriels, punctuated chimneys and a vast south terrace overlooking the ridged landscape.
The interior is just as grand with 96 rooms, including a Great Hall, library, drawing rooms, conservatory and billiards room. Surrounding the home is a striking stone fence. Did you know there were plans for a heated pool in the basement? EJ Lennox also designed Old City Hall, the King Edward Hotel and St Paul’s Anglican Church.
The Stables, Carriage House, Tunnel & World War II
In 1905, Sir Pellatt bought land from Albert Austin. It had served as Mr Austin’s private golf course. The following year, Pellatt hired EJ Lennox to design his stables. They’re located at 330 Walmer Rd and cost $250,000 (1906 value) to build. A few features include Spanish mahogany stables and floors tiled in a herringbone pattern to prevent the horses from slipping. Each stall, to this day, has the name of Sir Pellatt’s beloved horses. When Casa Loma was completed, it was connected to the stables by a 244 m or 800 ft tunnel. The tunnel is 5.5 m or 18 ft under Austin Terrace.
In 1944 and under the greatest possible secrecy, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy had a factory in the stables to assemble ASDIC (Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee). It was an early form of sonar. This system was crucial during battles in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. The assembly plant was kept secret until after the war had ended.
The Fall of Toronto’s Camelot
Sir Pellatt wanted to expand Casa Loma; however, due to the slumping economy, World War I, poor land speculation decisions and more, he fell into debt. There was no choice but to auction off their valued possessions to pay taxes due to the City. In 1924, they left Casa Loma for their farm in King township. Henry Pellatt passed away in 1939. Held in great respect, the Major General was given one of the City’s largest military funerals.
Casa Loma After Sir Pellatt
Casa Loma was converted to a hotel and was in operation from 1926 to 1929. In 1933, because of the more than $27,300 owing in taxes, the City took ownership. It remained vacant until 1937 when The Kiwanis Club of West Toronto took over and ran the historic property as a tourist attraction until 2011. In 1973, Casa Loma was one of the buildings on Heritage Toronto’s initial induction list.
Today, Liberty Entertainment Group operates the City-owned gem. The spectacular castle welcomes over 600,000 visitors every year. It’s open for tours, dining, private events, film/TV/photoshoots and much more. There’s also a room dedicated to The Group of Seven, which includes artwork by its founder, J.E.H. MacDonald.
Casa Loma Photos
- City of Toronto Heritage Register: 1 Austin Terrace
- City of Toronto Heritage Register: 330 Walmer Rd
- Ontario Heritage Trust: Casa Loma at 1 Austin Terrace
- Ontario Heritage Trust: Casa Loma Stables at 330 Walmer Rd
- Heritage Toronto (plaques)
- Casa Loma: About
- Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library