Castle of the Week 92 - Casa Loma
It’s a cold winter’s day and you gaze upwards at
a majestic 130 foot (40 meter) Scottish tower reaching into
the clear blue sky, the view is breathtaking. Looking at the
beauty and detail your mind evokes an image of ages past.
You can almost envision a Lord and his Lady walking in the
cold winter air and the glory of a bygone age as you gaze
at this wonderful landmark that graces the city of Toronto,
Canada. Casa Loma’s hilltop location allows for
beautiful views of the city and the gardens that cover the
estate. Formal, informal and labyrinth gardens grace the
grounds and great care has been taken to preserve the
beauty of the castle.
Casa Loma was the dream of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt. As a young
man he traveled Europe and kept a sketch book in which he
made faithful recordings of castles he loved. At 18 he joined
the Queen's Own Rifles and was employed by his father’s
stock brokering firm, Pellatt and Pellatt. He met and married
Mary Dodgson and was soon on his way to being a successful
Sir Henry was a successful risk taker in business, achieving
his fortune by investing in profitable ventures. By starting
companies like the Toronto Electric Light Company in 1833,
the first Canadian hydro-generating plant at Niagara Falls,
to which he and partners won the rights, and purchasing stock
in railroad and land companies, he achieved his financial
As a noted military man he gained the rank of Major General
in the Queen’s Own Rifles; and his Knighthood in the
year 1905 for his service.
As his fortune grew, he realized that he had the means to
realize his dream. Sir Henry purchased a 25 acre country
estate which, back then, was north of Toronto and had one
building, the hunting lodge.
The first thing added by Sir Henry was stables, in which he
gave his horses every luxury. With stalls made of mahogany,
the horses’ names above the stalls in gold and floors
covered with a zigzag pattern of Spanish tile to prevent
slippage, the horses lived in style.
Today you can reach the stables by an 800 foot tunnel that
connects the stables and the lower floor of the castle at a
depth of 18 feet below the ground.
Construction of the castle began in 1911; Sir Henry hired the
noted Canadian architect, E.J. Lennox, to build the home of
his dreams. Lennox combined the favorite aspects of Sir
Henry’s sketches, in which he showcases Norman,
Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles, to achieve the
Casa Loma we see today. Three hundred men worked on the
construction of the castle from 1911-1914 at a cost of
$3,500,000. Stone masons from Scotland were brought to Canada
to cut and lay the grey sandstone. Painstaking care was given
and materials were brought in from all over the world to give
the castle an authentic look and feel.
The Norman tower guards the west and keeps watch over the
city of Toronto; the Scottish tower on the east side offers
the viewer a glimpse into the beautiful gardens that grace 5
acres of land below it.
No expense was spared in the detail that Sir Henry wanted
portrayed. Beautiful rooms and secret passages were
incorporated into the design.
The Great Hall with a 60 foot high ceiling, darkened beams
and Gargoyles hearken back to a time not seen in the New
World. The beauty and grandeur take you back the time of
Knights and Ladies, beauty and pageantry.
The balcony that overlooks the Great Hall connects to Sir
Henry’s private suite. In his private study are two
secret passages behind panels on either side of the
fireplace that took him to his wine cellar or to his second
Modern luxuries were blended into the old persona of the
castle. For the era it was built in, electric wiring, 52
phones, a central vacuuming system, ovens that were big
enough to cook an ox and a staff of 40 to help run the
castle were required.
The conservatory has steam pipes that warmed the plant beds
and a $12,000 dollar stained glass dome that illuminates a
floor of green and pink Italian marble. Lady Pellatt must
have enjoyed entertaining in this lovely room. Old historical
photos show ladies in this very room adorned in their finery.
With hopes of one day having the Royal family visit, Sir
Henry created the Windsor room. Peacock Alley is also
recreated in the castle. But the dream was not be; he was
forced to give up his castle in 1924, due to financial
complications. The Pellatt family moved to their country home
and the City of Toronto acquired the castle in lieu of taxes.
It changed hands several times until, in 1937, the Kiwanis
Club asked the City of Toronto if they could restore the
castle, which had fallen into disrepair, and run it for the
benefit of the city and the public. The offer was accepted
and the Kiwanis Club of Toronto has successfully and
wondrously run the castle ever since.
Sir Henry would have been pleased to know that Casa Loma
aided the Allies in the Second World War. A place of secrecy
was needed to manufacture the ASDIC device (the predecessor
to the sonar) after the plant where it was being made in
Britain was bombed. Knowing that the castle was the last
place an observer would look for a manufacturing plant, the
engineer responsible chose the basement under the stables to
carry out their clandestine mission. It would not be till a
decade after the war that those involved finally let the city
councilors know of the work that helped get desperately
needed supplies to the Allies.
Today the castle is still operated by the Kiwanis Club of
Toronto and I must extend a grateful thank you to Lou Seiler,
Director of Marketing, for his correspondence with
information and help in supplying almost all the pictures for
this article. Take a virtual tour of the castle by visiting
their wonderful website.
Write-up courtesy of
Additional photos courtesy of Castles of the World and we
continue to thank them for the use of the photos on their
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