Casa Loma Toronto, the name is Spanish and means 'house on the hill', is an elegant Edwardian mansion that charms visitors with its quirky mix of comparatively modern and pretend ancient.
It's Toronto's 'castle'.
Sir Henry Pellatt, self-made Toronto multi-millionaire, began building the house around 1911.
The photo below is its entrance.
Henry was more than your average entrepreneur.
For example, he was a champion runner and pistol shot in his younger days, before he became rich and famous.
His fortune was built slowly from property and other investments in the late 1800's and early 1900's and by 1911 he was ready to settle down.
And like many a great Victorian/Edwardian millionaire, he wanted a property to reflect his wealth and pomp, see our Oshawa page link below for another such home -- Parkwood.
As his heritage was Scottish, Casa Loma was designed and built as a Scottish castle, though I feel Sir Henry mixed his metaphors by giving it a Spanish name.
The parts of the building that were completed, such as the great hall and principal living areas, are full of Scottish flags, stags, pheasants and other pointers to Scotland.
As local gentry, Sir Henry and his wife Mary, took on all the duties expected of their station. He was Colonel-in-Chief of the Queen's Own Rifles in Ontario and Mary was head of Canada's Girl Guides movement and the St John's Ambulance. The house contains a lot of memorabilia related to all these efforts.
The gardens too have a British ambiance, with trees, shrubberies, water gardens with fountains, and scenic walks. It was, and is, the very essence of a rich Briton's view of how country life should be lived. Sir Henry, he was newly-knighted, even entertained Royalty here.
The gardens are a wonderful place to get away from it all. Though the house is busy with visitors, the gardens, away from the terraces, are generally quiet and the tall trees and dense shrubs subdue the noise of vehicles on nearby streets.
Casa Loma Toronto is right next door to the Spadina Museum, another grand home now in public hands and another great place to visit while you're in Toronto.
As for many people who become rich, disgruntled competitors and envious spirits are always looking for opportunities to do you down. It becomes clear when reading and hearing the history of the Pellatts and their great house that they were no exception.
After spending a fortune to develop hydro-electric power from Niagara Falls and bring it to Toronto, the government and people of the day expropriated his company (and those of other people) without compensation, starting a downward spiral for the Pellats.
One of the first casualties was Casa Loma Toronto itself. Many areas of the building weren't completed, including the Scottish Tower from which this photo was taken.
The tower is enclosed but the insides are missing. Access to the top windows is up a series of circular irons stairs and flights of wooden steps.
The First World War caused more damage to the Pellatts companies and investments and he found it difficult to keep up, even to being behind in paying the property taxes on Casa Loma Toronto. The city increased the taxes until he finally couldn't pay, ensuring they, the City, would be able to buy the multi-million dollar property for less than $30,000.
The Depression finished the rest and, after his wife died, Sir Henry ended his days as a lodger in his chauffeur's house in King City, north of Toronto.
The house is furnished as it was in Sir Henry's day and it's a fascinating mixture of old and new. Ancient ornaments, like heraldry items and suits of armour, are lit by the wonderful new invention of electric lights, which would have cemented Sir Henry's fortune, and his place in Ontario's history, if all had gone well. Instead, Toronto has a statue to the principal person behind the public take over of the hydro-electric system.
Bathrooms, particularly the ladies, have marbled walls and floors, very 21st Century, with fittings that look as if they're from the ark. The attached conservatory, today we'd call it a Florida Room, has a beautiful stained glass cupola with a flower and leaf motif, like an enormous Tiffany lampshade.
The house and grounds aren't downtown, so harder to reach, but they are a Toronto must-see attraction. You can get there by car, from Spadina Ave, or by public transport. As well, the open-topped double-decker bus tours can drop you off at Casa Loma Toronto as part of their city tour.
Entrance to the house and grounds is very reasonable and it's open almost all year round. Visit their website at Casa Loma for the latest information.
And for more things to do in Toronto, click here.
And for a hotel in Ontario or anywhere else:
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