Tag Archives: Casa Loma

Inside Casa Loma

August 14, 2022

We’ve previously visited the grounds of Casa Loma and written about the history of the castle and so we won’t be repeating a lot of that in this post. For that story you can follow this link, which will also be supplied at the end of this article, Casa Loma. It is North America’s only full sized castle and measures nearly 200,000 square feet. It took 300 men almost 3 years to build it at a cost of $3,500,000 which would be close to $100,000,000 in today’s money.

The ceiling in the conservatory has a very elaborate glass structure that lets in lots of light. This room has lots of windows and overlooks the gardens. It is located on the east end of the main floor.

The castle has one of the most beautiful libraries with book shelves that line two walls. I have personally always wanted a library like this to house my collection.

On the west end of the main floor, beyond the Great Hall, was the Oak Room. Like other areas in the castle, the carvings and woodworking are very detailed and intricate.

The Windsor Room is on the west end of the second floor and is named after the Royal Family of England. Henry Pellet had hoped that one day this room would serve as a guest space for members of the royal family. The furniture was sold in the 1924 estate sale but was bought back by Casa Loma in 1992.

Space for a telephone was provided in almost every room in the castle which was quite a luxury in 1914.

Sir Henry’s room was decorated in a fairly simple manner but included a tiger that he had personally shot. In the Edwardian era it was quite common for the wealthy to have separate living spaces and bedrooms for the husband and wife.

It was uncommon at the turn of the last century for people to have a fully equipped indoor bathroom but the Pellatts had more than one of them. Henry’s washroom also included a shower that had six different body sprays that were each controlled by a separate faucet. This was likely the only shower of its kind in Toronto at the time and may be the only surviving example.

Mary Pellatts room and suite was actually much larger than her husband’s and was furnished in a pale blue with white details that were inspired by classic Wedgewood pottery. She also had a large sitting room, a solarium, private bathroom and wardrobe. Mary was a strong supporter of the early Girl Guides movement.

Mary’s room opened onto a large balcony that looked out over the gardens and had a great view of the city below in the distance. She also had an interesting view of the rest of the castle including the Norman tower. Mary was able to entertain guests in her private suites.

There were five guest suites on the second floor of the castle including this one which was decorated in a style known as “Chinoiserie”. This style of decoration tends to imitate oriental patterns. Each of the guest suites had a bedroom, bathroom, closet and sitting room.

It is possible to access the roof of the Norman Tower via a small spiral staircase. The roof provides a 360 degree view of the city which obviously looks much different now than it did when the castle was built. A hundred years ago the Pellatts had access to fields north of the castle to run their horses in.

The stables were housed in another castle like building a short distance to the north. It is accessed through a tunnel that connects the two buildings.

There is an antique car display in the stables but it was closed on the day that we chose to visit. However, we were able to see this grand carriage that is stored outside of the horse stables.

The horse stalls each had the horse name on a brass plate with 18 karat gold lettering. The Pellatt horses had each won numerous prizes and championships throughout North America.

It’s possible to spend hours exploring the castle including all the military displays on the second floor and considering the $40 ticket price its a good idea to do so.

See our related stories: Casa Loma and Spadina

Google Maps link: Casa Loma

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Casa Loma

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Casa Loma stands as a testament to the lavish lifestyles of some of the wealthiest people in Toronto’s history. As the city of Toronto grew the wealthy classes looked for a place to establish their garden estates and one of the primary areas was on top of the Davenport Escarpment. Here, they built large homes amongst lavish gardens with views out over the city and Lake Ontario to the south of them. The earliest estate built here was known as Davenport and was constructed in 1797. It was followed by Spadina and Russell Hill in 1818. These homes are long gone but several others still remain to remind us of the former glory of the area. For example, Lenwill the home of prominent Toronto architect E. J. Lennox was built in 1914 and still stands just to the west of Casa Loma. An early picture of Casa Loma from the Toronto Archives is featured below.

In 1903 Sir Henry Pellatt purchased 40 acres from the Austin Estate so that he could build his mansion which he called Casa Loma. The name Casa Loma means Hill House and reflects the fact that it was built on top of the escarpment that was the shoreline of Lake Ontario after the last ice age. Henry Pellatt was born in 1859 in Kingston and was instrumental in bringing hydro-electric power to the city of Toronto. Henry was a soldier in The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada as well as a financier having worked in his fathers firm of Pellatt and Pellatt.

Casa Loma was built between 1911 and 1914 and is the largest private residence ever built in Canada. It has 98 rooms and covers 64,700 square feet of floor space. A team of 299 workers spent three years building it until construction was stopped by the start of World War 1. The home contains secret passages and a swimming pool. There were plans to put three bowling alleys in the basement but only one of them was ever completed. The bowling alley is now used as a gift shop.

Casa Loma is currently hosting a collection of photographs that were taken by Princess Diana’s personal photographers. These larger than life photos and the stories behind them reveal a side of Diana that hasn’t been seen by the public before now. The exhibit is open until June 26, 2022 and has an additional ticket price on top of the regular cost of exploring the castle. The car that is parked outside to advertise the exhibit is a replica of Diana’s car.

Casa Loma cost $3.5 million dollars which would be over $100 million dollars today. When the government decided to remove the private ownership of electricity and make it public, Henry Pellatt started to have financial troubles. After World War 1 the economy suffered a downturn and Pellatt found himself owing the bank about $20 million dollars. This, combined with the huge property tax bill, caused him to have to auction off the castle and his assets. In 1924 he moved to his country estate in King Township and today Casa Loma has become a tourist attraction. His country home was also lost to him and has been turned into Marylake, a religious retreat.

The grounds contain extensive gardens and fountains in both the front and back yards.

A private gate leads from Casa Loma to the neighbouring property where Spadina house is located. This is one of the other estates that have survived the construction of newer residences in the area.

Casa Loma has an extensive stables that were built in 1906 just a short distance north of the main castle. They were designed to look like Casa Loma and compliment the main structure.

The Hunting Lodge is also known as the Coach House and is a two story building with 4,380 feet of living space that was eventually used as servants quarters. Pellatt and his wife lived here while the main castle was being built. The stables are now used to house a classic car collection.

An underground tunnel connects the stables to the castle and it was used during World War 2 as a secret factory for the assembly of ASDIC. This was a type of sonar that was critical for the Allies to help them in the battles that were fought in the Atlantic Ocean.

This story features some of the history of Casa Loma but there are tours available which will allow you to see the inside of Toronto’s most famous castle.

Also see our feature on Spadina House and also Marylake

For a listing of our top 50 stories please check out our post Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails

Google Maps Link: Casa Loma

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Sunday Dec. 21, 2014

Following Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1837 Lot Street was renamed Queen Street.  The original name Lot Street was due to it’s use as the base line for the land survey in the town of York (Toronto). William Warren Baldwin bought a 200 acre land grant running north from Lot Street.  He named his estate Spadina after the native word for hill or sudden rise of land.   This rise of land is part of an ancient shoreline from when Lake Ontario was larger and known as Lake Iroquois.  The Scarborough Bluffs are also part of this shoreline.  Here he built the first Spadina house in 1818 and laid out Spadina Avenue to link it to the city.  He set a trend for York’s wealthy to establish large estates along the crest of the bluffs overlooking Davenport Road.  This became the wealthiest neighbourhood in the city by 1900.  Baldwin and his son, Robert, are credited with bringing government reform to Canada. While the Rebellion of 1837 failed to overthrow the Family Compact that was running the government, the Baldwins worked within the system to bring about change.  The former Spadina estate with it’s various modern uses was the subject of today’s exploration.  It is marked in red on the 1877 county atlas below. The sun was shining and it was a couple of degrees above freezing as I parked on Spadina just north of St. Clair.


The St. Clair reservoir is located on the south east corner on property that was sold to the city in 1913.  The reservoir was part of a larger project of public works planned and developed by R. C. Harris in the 1920’s.  The R.C. Harris Filtration Plant on Victoria Park was the first part of the Water Works system to be built.  After the Lake Ontario water had been purified it was pumped to reservoirs throughout the city for storage and delivery.  The reservoir at St. Clair was the first to be completed in 1930.  The cover photo shows the date stone with it’s inscription TWW (Toronto Water Works) and MCMXXX (1930).  The picture below shows the valve house at the top of the reservoir and the pipe tunnel portal below.  A grand staircase climbs the reservoir between them.

Spadina 19

When the reservoir was designed there was a fear that power failures could cause loss of water to the homes north of the reservoir.  Harris envisioned a water tower that would provide a 30 minute supply of water to homes in district 3.  The steel water tower would have cost $43,000 but Harris also designed a $70,000 neo-classical cladding for the outside to match with the pump houses.  With the great depression deepening city council didn’t approve the water tower.  Harris built the foundations for the water tower in the hopes that it would later get approved.  Improvements in the delivery of electrical power made the water tower obsolete and in the end it was never built.  On the south corner of the reservoir there is a mysterious concrete circle, the foundations for the planned water tower.

Spadina 7

The reservoir overlooks Nordheimer Ravine.  Samuel Nordehimer emigrated to Canada from Bavaria in 1844.  Along with his brother Abraham they opened a piano factory in The Junction.   A & S Nordheimer became one of Canada’s best known piano manufacturers.  Castle Frank Brook flows through the ravine on it’s way to join the Don River.  Castle Frank Brook is named after the home of Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe and his wife Elizabeth.  Constructed in 1793, Castle Frank was the first of many grand estates built north of the town of York.  The sketch below shows what the home of the Simcoes looked like.

Castle Frank

Castle Frank Brook was buried in the 1970’s when the Spadina subway line was extended.  It now flows through a sewer pipe under the ravine.  As I walked along the ravine I saw a rather unique tree house.  This one has a smiley face cut in the side for windows.

Spadina 14

Soil erosion on the hillsides has left a lot of tree roots exposed.  The root system of a plant is normally close enough to the surface to take advantage of nutrient and water availability. However, where water is scarce, roots have been known to extend over 60 meters into the ground.

Spadina 13

The bridge across Nordheimer ravine was built in 1929 as part of the infrastructure improvements that went along with construction of the reservoir.  An earlier wooden bridge was replaced with the current one which is modeled after the Bloor Street Viaduct, also built by R.C. Harris.  Crossing the bridge and continuing south you quickly come to the edge of an old escarpment looking out across the downtown core of the city.   Spadina Road was designed as a grand thoroughfare between Queen Street and Davenport Road.

Spadina 24

With 98 rooms the largest private home ever built in Canada is Casa Loma.  It was constructed between 1911 and 1913 for Henry Pellatt.  Henry had made his fortune by developing Niagara Falls for electrical production and bringing hydro to the city of Toronto.  We had found the remnants of his power corridor while hiking Humber Bay to Bloor Street on May 24.  The front lawn was laid out for Christmas.

Spadina 28

When Pellatt was envisioning Casa Loma he was also thinking about his horses.  He had elegant stables built in 1905 in anticipation of building his castle.  He lived here while the castle was under construction.  There was an 800 foot tunnel built underground from the stables to Casa Loma.  During the second world war a top secret installation here assembled ASDIC, an early version of sonar that was to prove key in winning the war in the Atlantic.

Spadina 43

William Warren Baldwin built the third house to stand on the Spadina property in 1866 completing it in 1913.  Spadina house was donated to the city in 1982 and opened as a museum in 1984.  It has been decorated to showcase life in the 1920’s.

Spadina 61

While exploring Earl Bales Park on July 19th an old water pump made by R. McDougall & Co. in Galt was found in the woods.  One of their water pumps was installed at Spadina house where it served the needs of the house for several decades.

Spadina 77

A set of gardens is laid out in the back of the house similar to the 1905 gardens.  A smaller garden near the house grows plants that would have been cultivated there in 1880.  After having walked once around the rear gardens of the home I returned to find a red fox walking across the front lawn.  Normally a nocturnal hunter, this specimen appeared to be quite comfortable as long as he could keep a distance between us.  A hundred years ago Pellatt and his friends might have been out with their fox-hounds chasing this guy’s ancestors.

Spadina 74

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