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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
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
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.
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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