Did you know there is a 98-room castle nestled on a hill in the middle of Toronto, built by a 19th century multimillionaire who ended up bankrupt by his dream palace? Recently a production I was working on was shooting scenes at the famous Casa Loma castle, and I was reminded how remarkable it is and what an interesting history it has.
Sir Henry Mill Pellatt was a Canadian financier and philanthropist who became fascinated with castles after visiting Europe as a teenager. He became immensely wealthy after founding the Toronto Electric Light Company in 1883 and bringing hydro-electricity to Toronto, and by investing in Canada’s railways. In 1911, he decided to build his very own castle in midtown Toronto. It’s said that he hoped when royalty visited from England, they’d stay with him and his wife Lady Mary at their palace. Lady Mary Pellatt married Sir Henry in 1882, and was the first Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Girl Guides. She was a great philanthropist and held Girl Guide rallies at Casa Loma. The 200,000 square foot castle was completed after three years at a cost of 3.5 million dollars, in 1914.
Sir Henry and Lady Mary only got to enjoy Casa Loma for nine years. Overspending on the project combined with the Canadian electricity market becoming publicly owned led Pellatt to declare bankruptcy in 1923. The castle was seized by the government and later sold to the City of Toronto, which now operates it as a museum and tourist attraction. It’s considered one of the best examples of Gothic Revival architecture in North America.
The five acres that surround Casa Loma are beautiful to wander through, with stunning fountains and sculptures to discover at every turn.
This serving room was used as a breakfast room and for small suppers. It was also a staging area for the kitchen staff to set prepared dishes for the servers to bring out to the larger dining room for more formal meals.
Sir Henry and Lady Mary loved to garden, and built their conservatory so they could cultivate plants during every season. They enjoyed their afternoon tea here during the winter months. The conservatory features a range of exotic plants, flowers, and trees, as well as a stained glass ceiling and a small pond. Steam pipes kept the flower beds warm in the winter.
Inspired by an Italian villa, the bronze doors to the Conservatory cost nearly $10,000 each at the time. The marble on the floor is Italian, and the side panels are crafted from marble made in Bancroft, Ontario.
Casa Loma is one of Toronto’s most popular tourist attractions with over half a million visitors touring the castle and the estate gardens every year. On this extremely cold winter day, this crystal clear view of the city was spectacular.
There is also the stunning Great Hall to visit, and the 10,000 book library. Give yourself at least half a day to take it all in. During the holiday season, the Holiday Lights Outdoor Experience features thousands of lights twinkling throughout the gardens. Casa Loma is open daily from 9:30am to 5pm with the last entry at 4:30pm; admission pricing details available on the website. 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto.