Casa Loma

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For the community in California, see Casa Loma, California.
Casa Loma
Casa Loma.JPG
General information
Type Mansion ; Established as museum in 1937 (1937)
Architectural style Gothic Revival
Address 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, Ontario, M5R 1X8, Canada
Coordinates 43°40′41″N 79°24′34″W / 43.6781°N 79.4095°W / 43.6781; -79.4095
Current tenants Liberty Entertainment Group (Since 2013) ((Since 2013))
Construction started 1911
Completed 1914
Cost $3,5M
Client Henry Pellatt
Owner City of Toronto
Dimensions
Other dimensions Grounds: 343,253 sqft
Technical details
Floor count 7 floors
Floor area 64,700 sqft
Design and construction
Architect E. J. Lennox
Official name: Casa Loma
Type: Designated Part IV (Heritage Property)
Designated: 1987

Casa Loma (Spanish for Hill House) is a Gothic Revival style house and gardens in midtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada, that is now a museum and landmark. It was originally a residence for financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt. Casa Loma was constructed over a three-year period from 1911–1914. The architect of the mansion was E. J. Lennox,[1] who was also responsible for the designs of several other city landmarks.

History[edit]

Construction of Casa Loma (c. 1912)
Garden party at Casa Loma (1914)

In 1903, Sir Henry Pellatt purchased 25 lots from developers Kertland and Rolf. Sir Henry commissioned Canadian architect E. J. Lennox to design Casa Loma with construction beginning in 1911, starting with the massive stables, potting shed and Hunting Lodge (a.k.a. coach-house) a few hundred feet north of the main building. The Hunting Lodge is a two storey 4,380-square-foot (407 m2) house with servant's quarters. As soon as the stable complex was completed, Sir Henry sold his summer house in Scarborough to his son and moved to the Hunting Lodge. The stables were used as a construction site for the castle (and also served as the quarters for the male servants), with some of the machinery still remaining in the rooms under the stables.[citation needed]

The house cost approximately $3.5 million and took a team of 300 workers three years to build from start to finish. Unfortunately, due to the start of World War I, construction on the house was halted. At 98 rooms covering 64,700 square feet (6,011 m2), it was the largest private residence in Canada.[2] Notable amenities included an elevator, an oven large enough to cook an ox, two vertical passages for pipe organs, a central vacuum, two secret passages in Sir Henry's ground-floor office, along with a pool and three bowling alleys in the basement (the last two were never completed).

Most of the third floor was left unfinished, and today serves as the Regimental Museum for The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. Pellatt joined the Regiment as a Rifleman and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the Commanding Officer. He was knighted for his dedication to the Regiment. Later, Pellatt served as the Honorary Colonel and was promoted Major-General upon retirement.

During the depression that followed World War One, the City of Toronto increased Casa Loma's annual property taxes from $600 per year to $1,000 a month, and Pellatt, already experiencing financial difficulties, was forced to auction off $1.5 million in art and $250,000 in furnishings. Sir Henry was able to enjoy life in the castle for less than ten years, leaving in 1923.

In the late 1920s, investors operated Casa Loma for a short time as a luxury hotel. During Prohibition it became a popular nightspot for wealthy Americans. The Orange Blossoms, later known as Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, played there for eight months in 1927–1928. Shortly thereafter, they went on tour of North America and became a major swing era dance band.

The city seized Casa Loma in 1933 for $27,303 in back taxes. The castle was extremely run down and the city was motioning for the castle to be demolished. In 1937, however, it was leased by the Kiwanis Club of West Toronto, later the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma (KCCL), which began operating the castle under a sole-source contract[3] as a tourist destination.

Lieutenant-Governor Dr. Bruce opens Casa Loma to the public (1937)

During World War II, Casa Loma was used to conceal research on sonar, and for construction of sonar devices (known as ASDIC) for U-boat detection. It should be noted that most of the work went on behind an area simply segregated with an "Under Repairs" sign, behind a simple sheet. This allowed people to come and go dressed as workmen, right under the public's nose.[4]

KCCL ultimately managed Casa Loma for 74 years, until 2011. Its tenure was not without controversy, with Pellatt's great-grandniece Trelawny Howell starting a campaign for an open tender lease process in 2005,[5] and the organization disputing her relationship with Pellatt in 2010.[6] A 2006 advisory committee led by former MPP Ron Kanter, and its subsequent reports, recommended the city turn the castle's management over to a new "Casa Loma Trust";[7] however, a city manager's report in 2008 recommended extending the city's lease with KCCL for 20 years, and in July 2008 it was renewed.[8]

Meanwhile, from 1997 until 2012 the castle underwent a 15-year, $33-million exterior restoration largely funded by the city, which also created a new board of trustees including seven KCCL members and seven city appointees in 2008.[9] The city's renewed management agreement also included a stipulation that KCCL would use the castle's net revenues to help pay for upgrades; however, the organization used the fund to cover operating shortfalls instead, and there was only $335,000 in the account by 2011, not the $1.5-million originally projected.[10]

As a result, in 2011 the city temporarily resumed management of Casa Loma, and began welcoming bids from the private sector in its search for a new operator.[11]

In January 2014 the city entered a new long-term lease and operating agreement with Liberty Entertainment Group, led by President and CEO Nick Di Donato, which agreed to spend $7.4 million to continue the castle’s restoration, installing air conditioning, enhancing the special events and dining experience and integrating new technology for school and cultural programming. The company's plans also include a fine dining facility.[12]

Layout[edit]

The CN Tower is visible from the third floor.
Fountain as seen from the third floor.

Casa Loma has five acres of gardens. An underground tunnel connects Casa Loma to the Hunting Lodge and to the stables (garage, potting shed, stalls, carriage room and tack rooms).

Main floor[edit]

  • Great Hall
  • Library
  • Dining Room
  • The Conservatory
  • Serving Room
  • Peacock Alley
  • Sir Henry's Study
  • Smoking Room
  • Billiards Room
  • Oak Room

Second floor[edit]

  • Sir Henry's Suite
  • Sir Henry's Bathroom
  • Lady Pellatt's Suite
  • Lady Pellatt's Bathroom
  • Girl Guides Exhibit
  • Guest Suite
  • Windsor Room
  • Round Room

Third floor[edit]

Basement[edit]

  • Gift Shop (Bowling lanes and shooting range - never completed)
  • Castle Café (Gymnasium - never completed)
  • Swimming Pool (Never completed)
  • Wine Cellar
  • Tunnel to Hunting Lodge and Stables

Stables[edit]

  • Garage
  • Potting Shed
  • Stalls
  • Carriage Room
  • Tack Rooms
  • Hunting Lodge

Exterior[edit]

  • Gardens
  • Parking lots

Appointments[edit]

Sir Henry imported artisans from Europe to design much of the furniture and other features of the castle, a few of which can be seen in the images below.

Library at Casa Loma with new chandeliers 
The room intended as Sir Henry's drawing room. The French oak panels took artisans three years to carve. 
Sir Henry aspired to have members of the Royal Family stay in the Guest Suite. 
The Conservatory showcases plants and, at one end, this fountain. 
Lady Pellatt's Suite. 
The Round Room is designed to fit beneath the castle's tower. This room is notable for its doors and windows, which curve to follow the shape of the room. 

Location[edit]

Casa Loma is on Austin Terrace at Spadina Road, on an escarpment (Davenport Hill) above Davenport Road. Davenport runs along the bottom of the escarpment which was the shoreline of Lake Iroquois, the predecessor of Lake Ontario (coordinates 43°40′41″N 79°24′33″W / 43.678°N 79.4093°W / 43.678; -79.4093). Casa Loma affords views down the escarpment and Spadina Avenue into the heart of Toronto. The stables are located at 330 Walmer Road and the Hunting Lodge at 328 Walmer Road.

Casa Loma is served by St. Clair West Station and Dupont Station on the Yonge–University–Spadina line of the Toronto subway.

In popular culture[edit]

Due to its unique architectural character in Toronto, Casa Loma has been a popular location for movies and TV. For example, it has served as a location for movies such as X-Men, Strange Brew, Chicago, The Tuxedo, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Warehouse 13, Twitches Too and The Pacifier. Comic books and children's novels that have used it include the Scott Pilgrim series and Eric Wilson's murder mystery, The Lost Treasure of Casa Loma. It was also temporarily transformed into Hogwarts for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In the CBC Television show Being Erica, the episode "Mi Casa, Su Casa Loma" features Casa Loma prominently as the place where main character Erica Strange works.[13]

Casa Loma is also mentioned in Canadian poet Dennis Lee's 1970 children's poem "Wiggle to the Laundromat", in the collection Alligator Pie: “Wiggle to the laundromat,/Waggle to the sea;/ Skip to Casa Loma/ And you can't catch me!”.[14] It also served in the movie adaption of R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps (TV series)" A Night In Terror Tower. Casa Loma also features prominently in the biography-documentary of Sir Henry Pellatt, The Pellatt Newsreel: the Man who Built Casa Loma which appeared on the Biography Channel and was nominated for a 2009 Gemini for Best Biography Documentary. TV show "Hemlock Grove" was also filmed there as well as "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones".

Girl Guiding[edit]

Lady Pellatt frequently invited the Girl Guides to her home. Their first visit was in 1913 when 250 girls and their leaders toured the conservatories, the stables, climbed the circular staircase to the top turret and then were served tea in the Palm Room. In March 1914, Lady Pellatt watched the Guides annual fête from her bedroom window as she was too ill to leave her room.[15] Rallies became an annual event at the house. Guides also skated on the house's curling rink in winter.

Vintage car exhibition[edit]

As of 2014, the garage and carriage room feature an exhibition of vintage cars from the early 1900s.

1910 Maxwell Model Q Standard 
1914 Ford Model T 
1910 Maxwell Model Q Standard 
1922 Ford Model T Woody 
1929 Ford Model A 

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The History of Casa Loma". Casa Loma website. City of Toronto. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  2. ^ Future Options for Casa Loma, Toronto, Casa Loma Corporation, 2012, 115 p., p. 13
  3. ^ Barber, John (2006). "The Globe and Mail: Our Casa or their Casa?". www.casalomatrust.ca. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  4. ^ . Casa Loma: the house that Henry built: how a castle in downtown Toronto helped us win the battle of the Atlantic in WWII. Eric Leclerc. Esprit de Corps. 18.6 (July 2011) p32.
  5. ^ Howell, Trelawny (2005). "Toronto Waterfront Magazine: Casa Loma's Fate". www.casalomatrust.ca. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Farncomb, Jennifer (2010). "Annex Gleaner: Howell defends her lineage". www.casalomatrust.ca. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Spears, John (2006). "Toronto Star: Sir Henry's great-grandniece wants new caretakers". www.casalomatrust.ca. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  8. ^ Grant, Kelly (2010). "The Globe and Mail: Feud brews over Casa Loma". www.globeandmail.ca. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  9. ^ Grant, Kelly (2010). "The Globe and Mail: Feud brews over Casa Loma". www.globeandmail.ca. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Grant, Kelly (2010). "The Globe and Mail: Feud brews over Casa Loma". www.globeandmail.ca. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  11. ^ Wood, Eric Emin (2013). "Turnaround at Casa Loma; Town Crier". www.mytowncrier.ca. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  12. ^ Wood, Eric Emin (2013). "Liberty Group to free Casa Loma; Town Crier". www.mytowncrier.ca. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  13. ^ Mi Casa, Su Casa Loma (Television production). Being Erica. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2009. 21:32 minutes in. 
  14. ^ But Is It Poetry? Journal Children‘s Literature in Education Publisher Springer Netherlands ISSN 0045-6713 (Print) 1573-1693 (Online) Issue Volume 32, Number 1 / March, 2001 DOI 10.1023/A:1005266021601 Pages 45-56 Subject Collection Humanities, Social Sciences and Law SpringerLink Date Wednesday, November 03, 2004
  15. ^ "Fact Sheet Lady Mary Pellatt". Girl Guides of Canada Guides du Canada. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 

Coordinates: 43°40′41″N 79°24′34″W / 43.6781°N 79.4095°W / 43.6781; -79.4095