Casa Loma - A Castle in Toronto Canada

A Gothic Style Castle in Toronto

Located on a hill at 1 Austin Terrace overlooking the city of Toronto, Ontario Canada, Casa Loma (Spanish for House on a Hill) is a Gothic style castle with a grand view of the surrounding city.

Despite its medieval fortress appearance, Casa Loma was actually constructed in the early twentieth century as the home of a wealthy Canadian financier, Sir Henry Pellatt.

Casa Loma came to mind for me after visiting Warner Castle, a similar residence built in the late nineteenth century, which I wrote about in my Hub entitled Warner Castle. I had visited Casa Loma years earlier while visiting Toronto which is on the other side of Lake Ontario opposite Rochester, New York where Warner Castle is located.

Casa Loma in 1974

Photo of Casa Loma taken in 1974 by me
Photo of Casa Loma taken in 1974 by me

While I mentioned Casa Loma in my Hub on Warner Castle, I decided to wait to write about it until I was able to get the 35mm slides, which contained my pictures of Casa Loma, digitized.

My 35mm slides from my 1974 visit to Toronto have now been digitized and, with the help of the Fix tool in Windows Photo Gallery, I have even been able to restore and remove much of the bluish tint that resulted from the aging of my original transparencies.

Entrance to Casa Loma

A Structure from a Romantic Age

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were a time of major economic and social change as advances in technology increased food production and freed labor to migrate from rural farms to the growing urban areas where they found work in factories.

While living standards were improving for all and great fortunes being made by some, it was also a period of nostalgia for what people of that era perceived as a simpler life in the past.

The past and rural country life were romanticized in art, literature and architecture. This was also a period when the newly rich sought to show off their new found wealth and some did it by building huge, castle like homes.

Casa Loma was one of these. Constructed between 1911 and 1914 on land purchased in 1903 by successful financier Sir Henry Pellatt, the 98 room castle along with stables and hunting lodge was built on the 25 lot parcel of land purchased by Sir Henry. The $3.5 million price tag was very high for its day but Sir Henry could afford it.

Hand Painted Ukranian Easter Eggs on Display During My Visit

Easter Egg Display
Easter Egg Display
Close up view of the eggs
Close up view of the eggs

A Reversal of Fortune Forces Sir Henry to Give Up Casa Loma

Unfortunately, Sir Henry and his wife were only able to enjoy life at Casa Loma for a few years before tragedy struck.

Sir Henry had made his fortune in the stock market and invested a large portion of his money in hydro and other electric generating businesses and railroads. He also invested heavily in real estate.

During World War I (1914 - 1918) the Canadian government nationalized the electric generating and railroad industries and this loss, combined with a decline in real estate values during the economic downturn that followed the war resulted in major financial losses for Sir Henry.

In addition to his other financial problems and the cost of building and maintaining Casa Loma, the City of Toronto, which faced its own financial problems as a result of the post war economic downturn, abruptly raised the real estate taxes on Casa Loma from $600 per year to $12,000 per month.

In an attempt to pay his bills and keep his home, Sir Henry sold his art collection but only received about one sixth of its value from the sale and this did little to help his financial situation.

Their finances depleted, Sir Henry and his wife were forced to give up Casa Loma in 1923. Sir Henry's wife, Lady Mary Pellatt, died the following year and the now impoverished Sir Henry, his wife and his fortune both gone, was taken in by his former chauffeur, with whom he remained until his death in 1939.

Sun Parlor in Lady Mary Pellatt's Bedroom
Sun Parlor in Lady Mary Pellatt's Bedroom
Lady Mary Pellatt's Bed
Lady Mary Pellatt's Bed
Conservatory
Conservatory
Casa Loma's Norman style tower
Casa Loma's Norman style tower

Property Seized for Unpaid Taxes and Becomes a Tourist Attraction

Various commercial interests took over Casa Loma after Sir Henry lost it, but they did not have much more success with it than did Sir Henry and, in 1933 the City of Toronto seized the property for the owner's failure to pay the $27,303 unpaid taxes.

With the exception of the years during World War II, Casa Loma has been a tourist attraction operated by the Kiwanis Club. It remains a popular Toronto tourist attraction and is well worth a visit.

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Comments 12 comments

Lilly Fernando 5 years ago

I Hate the food in Sir henry's Cafe it is greasy and wierd.


Nan 6 years ago

I love the article, I wonder what the value of the castle is today. It is a shame that the government took the property, and he could not pay the high taxes. In the US it is called private domain. The city can take over your property for special reasons. The can bring the value down or increase the value up. The property tax was outrageous. It is a shame the way turned on him, when he had worked hard to build his castle. Sice he was a Canadian, it is hard to believe they turned on him and nationalized his assets. I wonder if the law still has that much power. I am wondering if I need to own property!


Auntie M profile image

Auntie M 6 years ago

I and my family visited Toronto in the early 1990's and while there decided to take the tour of Castle Loma. What an experience and to think other then help only three family members lived there. I also was able to walk through the tiled tunnel that led to the stables. What was facinating was that they had installed in their showers pipies that with the turn of a knob released scented water. Remember there was no deodorant at the time. And when you go down to the cafeteria in the basement, it was hard to imagine that the entire section was once his wine cellar. Ah what we could do without income tax.


terrowhite profile image

terrowhite 6 years ago

your hubs are always great :) nice to see your hub on Canada.. keep the thumbs up!


Mitul R Desai profile image

Mitul R Desai 6 years ago

hey great chuck you r the best.


Vizey profile image

Vizey 6 years ago

Hi Chuck you always write unique hub. I am always eagerly wait for your new hub pages. your topic and its content is awesome.


johnsmarry profile image

johnsmarry 6 years ago

Hi…Chuck! Your collection is great one. On perusal one can easily associate with the historical ethics. Students are also benefited by your unique factors of collection. On the other hand the pictures are also pouring literacy in regard to historical aspects.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States

I had forgotten all about visiting this place many years ago, so it was a lovely stroll through a fascination place. Very enlightening on the taxes, as I had also seemed to have forgotten that too.


Chuck profile image

Chuck 6 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

Duchess OBlunt, bobmnu & Carol the Writer - thanks for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the article and pictures.

Carol, I agree with you on the nationalization and taxes. I believe that, in the U.S., President Wilson during World War I nationalized the railroads and that President Truman did the same with the steel industry during the Korean War but would have to double check that to make sure. As to taxes, the power to tax is the power to destroy and this type of destroying or confiscating property has been done by many governments in various times and places in history.

Thanks again

Chuck


Carol the Writer profile image

Carol the Writer 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Beautiful place. It's sad that they could nationalize his businesses and raise his taxes so much. Could happen in the US, too. - Carol


bobmnu profile image

bobmnu 6 years ago from Cumberland

I too remember visiting the Castle and remember the special granite panels in one of the rooms that was selected to represent the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. I marveled at the pattern in the granite.

Interesting Hub


Duchess OBlunt 6 years ago

Great information Chuck. I'm very happy you were able to digitize and fix up those photos you took in 1974. They are great! I'm not sure we are allowed to take pictures inside any more.

I remember visiting the beautiful castle when I was very young (before 1974) and being totally captivated with the grandeur. It was breathtaking.

Loved this hub

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