Casa Loma – Toronto’s Treasured, Majestic Castle on the Hill

2020 - Casa Loma from the gardens
2020 – Casa Loma from the gardens

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”

The magnificent home was built by Sir Henry Pellatt. Construction on Casa Loma began in 1910 and by 1913, the Pellatt’s moved into the not-quite-completed the castle on the hill. Completed the following year, it took 300 men to build the 200,000 square foot mansion at a 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.

1928 - Casa Loma Hotel, looking southeast
1928 – Casa Loma Hotel, looking southeast

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 its 96 rooms including a Great Hall, library, drawing rooms, conservatory and billiards room. Surrounding the home is a striking stone fence. Did you know that 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

2020 - Casa Loma Stables
2020 – Casa Loma Stables

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 on it. When Casa Loma itself 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 it over and ran the historic property as a tourist attraction until 2011. During that time, 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

1911 - Casa Loma from Davenport & Walmer Rds
1911 – Casa Loma from Davenport & Walmer Rds
2020 - Casa Loma from the gardens
2020 – Casa Loma from the gardens
2020 - Casa Loma entrance
2020 – Casa Loma entrance
1920 - A view of Casa Loma and Toronto from The Stables, looking southeast
1920 – A view of Casa Loma and Toronto from The Stables, looking southeast
2020 - The view of Toronto from Casa Loma's Norman tower, looking southeast
2020 – The view of Toronto from Casa Loma’s Norman tower, looking southeast
2020 - The Great Hall at Casa Loma
2020 – The Great Hall at Casa Loma
1913 - The Library at Casa Loma
1913 – The Library at Casa Loma
1914 - The Library at Casa Loma
1914 – The Library at Casa Loma
2020 - The Library at Casa Loma
2020 – The Library at Casa Loma
1914 - Guests in the Palm Room at Casa Loma
1914 – Guests in the Palm Room at Casa Loma
2020 - The Palm Room/Conservatory at Casa Loma
2020 – The Palm Room/Conservatory at Casa Loma
1914 - Peacock Alley at Casa Loma
1914 – Peacock Alley at Casa Loma
2020 - The Round Room at Casa Loma
2020 – The Round Room at Casa Loma
2020 - The Windsor Guestroom
2020 – The Windsor Guestroom
1917 - Lady Pellatt's suite
1917 – Lady Pellatt’s suite
2020 - Lady Pellatt's suite at Casa Loma
2020 – Lady Pellatt’s suite at Casa Loma
2020 - Sir Henry Pellatt's suite
2020 – Sir Henry Pellatt’s suite
2020 - Sir Henry Pellatt's bathroom at Casa Loma
2020 – Sir Henry Pellatt’s bathroom at Casa Loma
2020 - Group of Seven Collection at Casa Loma
2020 – Group of Seven Collection at Casa Loma
2020 - The stairway up to the Norman Tower at Casa Loma
2020 – The stairway up to the Norman Tower at Casa Loma
2020 - Casa Loma
2020 – Casa Loma
2020 - The Scottish Tower at Casa Loma
2020 – The Scottish Tower at Casa Loma
2020 - Casa Loma tunnel
2020 – Casa Loma tunnel
1914/34 - Casa Loma Stables with mahogany stalls and herringbone-pattern tiled floors
1914/34 – Casa Loma Stables with mahogany stalls and herringbone-pattern tiled floors
2020 - Casa Loma Belle's stall
2020 – Casa Loma Belle’s stall
1920 - A rider on Casa Loma's stable grounds (Toronto Public Library r-6766)
1920 – A rider on Casa Loma’s stable grounds (Toronto Public Library r-6766)
2020 - Casa Loma Stables
2020 – Casa Loma Stables
2020 - Casa Loma Carriage House
2020 – Casa Loma Carriage House
1913 - Casa Loma stables and greenhouses, seen from the castle tower
1913 – Casa Loma stables and greenhouses, seen from the castle tower
1915 - Looking north towards Casa Loma from Spadina & Dupont Rds
1915 – Looking north towards Casa Loma from Spadina & Dupont Rds
1928 - Casa Loma Hotel, looking southeast
1928 – Casa Loma Hotel, looking southeast
1910 - Sir Henry and Lady Pellat greeting guests at a garden party at the CNE Grandstand
1910 – Sir Henry and Lady Pellat greeting guests at a garden party at the CNE Grandstand
1910/16 - Colonel Sir Henry Pellatt at a military function at the University Ave Armouries
1910/16 – Colonel Sir Henry Pellatt at a military function at the University Ave Armouries
1915 - Colonel Sir Henry Pellatt at the University Ave Armouries
1915 – Colonel Sir Henry Pellatt at the University Ave Armouries
1930 - Sir Henry Pellatt views his own portrait at Casa Loma
1930 – Sir Henry Pellatt views his own portrait at Casa Loma
1939 - The funeral of Colonel Sir Henry Pellatt at the University Ave Armouries
1939 – The funeral of Colonel Sir Henry Pellatt at the University Ave Armouries
1911/2020 - Casa Loma at 1 Austin Terrace
1911/2020 – Casa Loma at 1 Austin Terrace (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 4094)
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