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Blackburn, England, United Kingdom
July 7, 2011
From journal Places To Visit In Toronto
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
August 21, 2005
This historic property was once the home of a Canadian financier and soldier named Sir Henry Pellatt. He was a self-made millionaire whose fortune was worth $11 million when he started planning for Casa Loma in the early 1900s. The house itself cost over $3 million to build. Unfortunately, soon after the end of WWI, Sir Henry was forced to auction off Casa Loma and most of its possessions to pay off a large tax bill.
The castle itself is immense, complete with hidden passages and a tunnel leading from the castle to the stables. Unlike many attractions, the audio tour does not cost extra, so my wife, my son and I listed to an English version, while my mother-in-law followed along on her own in Mandarin.
Entry for all four of us was roughly $40CAD (or $32U.S.). We easily spent 2-3 hours touring the property. The one negative was that the gardens were closed (no surprise, remember it's April). Our son really enjoyed the adventure-like atmosphere, particularly the tunnel and secret passages.
From journal Early Spring in Toronto
Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom
July 17, 2004
The Great Hall, 20m high and lit by a 40-foot window comprised of 738 individual panes of glass, merely scrapes the surface of a building that cost over $40 million to construct and bankrupted its original owner almost as soon as it was completed.
Highlights include a conservatory with a Tiffany domed glass ceiling and Italian marble floor, a network of steam pipes to heat the estate’s flower beds, Canada’s first electric lift, and a bathroom with white marble walls and heated shower units that cost C$10,000 to construct in 1911.
The turreted towers at the top of the castle, reached by ascending a wooden staircase under the ceiling beams and then a tightly spiralling set of metal steps, provide some wonderful views of Toronto, though the locked windows don't make photographs very easy. Don’t miss the Oak Room on the ground floor, with its exquisite panelled walls full of spirals and pheasants holding ribbons, fruit, and flowers that took European artisans 3 years to carve.
Below ground level, the castle café was originally intended to be exercise room, while the three arches in the large gift shop were planned as lanes of a bowling alley. A corridor leads to the wine cellar, cooled by pipes full of ammonia and brine and the largest in North America when first built, and an unfinished swimming pool, no more than a concrete pit with an artist’s impression of what it was to have been - a mass of marble surrounded by full sized golden swans, arches, and cloisters.
The 800m-long tunnel to the stables is also located on this level. Passing a furnace where 800 tons of coal a year were burnt to heat the building, the stone tunnel opens to Spanish tiles and mahogany, with stalls bearing the letters of each horse in gold. Walk through to the garage and potting shed, where petrol cans and plants fill rooms the size of a school assembly hall. It's a truly remarkable end to a piece of medieval Europe on the outskirts of Canada's modern metropolis.
From journal Down All The Days
May 9, 2003
Spadina - in 1866, James Austin, Irish-immigrant-turned-businessman, began renovating an 1836 summerhouse into a home. The original decor and continuity of the family''s occupation (3 generations lived there) means that it genuinely reflects artistic preoccupations from 1890 onwards. James Austin co-founded Toronto Dominion Bank and, on his death in 1897, left his gracious home to his son who kept up the family traditions by collecting art and artefacts and extending the house (commissioning the impressive billiards room). He left the house to his daughters, the last of whom died in 1984, leaving it to the city. Informative guided tours are run by knowledgeable volunteers every hour, or informative pamphlets are available if you prefer to wander. Look out for the billiard room, the ceramics and the original gas chandeliers. The charming gardens are also well worth a stroll. Admission $5. Open Tues-Sun. firstname.lastname@example.org
Casa Loma - "Pellatt the plunger" - Toronto industrialist and military man, Sir Henry Pellatt was born to British parents in Ontario and worked for the family stockbrokerage. He travelled in Europe, sparking a romantic notion of a fairytale castle (curious given his life-long obsession with service in the Queen''s Own Rifles, for which he was knighted in 1905).
Sir Henry, a visionary businessman, saw in Edison''s steam-generated electricity potential profits and founded the Toronto Electric Light Company, enjoying a monopoly on the supply of city street lighting, success which culminated with the first hydro-electric plant at Niagara. By 1911, he had amassed a $17m fortune and turned his attention to his castle, employing Canadian architect E. J. Lennox to build on a piece of land called Casa Loma ("house on the hill"). Construction of his "medieval" fantasy took $3.5m, and 300 men nearly 3 years to complete, and was then crammed with art treasures.
A social whirl blended with philanthropy but he eventually couldn''t sustain Casa Loma''s expense which drew him into debt. When his Midas touch failed him, bankruptcy followed (hence his sobriquet) and Sir Henry had no option but to sell castle and contents - Casa Loma was picked up by the city for unpaid taxes.
Various proposals were considered and shelved until, in 1936, the Kiwanis Club of West Toronto proposed to re-cast it as a tourist attraction, opening to the public in 1937. (Despite his ignominious end, his philanthropy was not forgotten and, on his 1939 death, 1000s lined the streets for his funeral and he was buried with full military honours.)
Having marvelled at the exterior and wandered through the peaceful gardens, hire multilingual audio-cassettes and tour brochures. Tours start in a gothic-style baronial Great Hall flanked by suits of armour, standards and rather oppressive furniture, through the lighter, brighter conservatory with glorious Tiffany domed ceiling, up to the bedrooms and ultra-modern (for 1914) bathrooms and loos. Admission $8. Daily May-Oct
From journal Cool top 10 Toronto sights
October 12, 2002
It has secret passageways, towers, sweeping staircases, an 800-foot tunnel, stables, and five acre gardens - everything you expect to see in a real live castle.
The owner came upon hard financial times and the city of Toronto took it over and turned it into a tourist attraction. Don't miss it.
From journal North of the Border
May 19, 2002
This castle was built by Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, a Toronto financier, industrialist and military man. It was begun in 1911, though never completely finished to his vision, as financial misfortune struck after only a decade in residence. In 1924, he had to sell the castle and the contents for a small fraction of what he had paid, so many of the interior contents are no longer original.
Unlike many of the castles I visited in Scotland, the vast majority of this building and its gardens was open to the public to tour. Included in the CDN$10 (adult) entry fee is a personal audio guide that allows you to take in the plethora of rooms at your own pace, listening to as much or as little of the information as you like. It took us two hours indoors to see all we wanted to see, including the stables and the top of the tower. We spent another hour walking through the gardens lit up with gorgeous spring flowers.
An excellent website for the property is at www.casaloma.org.
From journal Springtime in Toronto
January 1, 2001
From journal Ontario's Capital