I love castles, mansions and Casa Loma! It is indeed my favourite tourist attraction in Toronto. Casa Loma (Hill House) is in Austin Terrace, the hill part of Toronto, built in 1911 for Sir Henry Pellatt, a Canadian financier. It took 300 men in 3 years to complete his majestic casa. Unfortunately, in less than 10 years, he was in bankruptcy and forced to leave his $3,500,000 mansion.
The weather in Toronto was somewhat unpredictable last December, getting clear blue sky in winter time was like finding treasures in wreckage of Titanic. It required good weather to enjoy attractions at Casa Loma. Scheduling my time to the casa was a bit useless. If the sky was dark and lot of rains, I’d rather change my plan to museums instead. Stepping slippery stairs to Austin Terrace, watching thunder and dark sky from the top floor of the casa were the last things I wanted to do.
Other drawbacks of visiting the former Sir Pellatt’s mansion during winter were the garden and balcony were closed and the fountain outside the main entrance was turned off. But it was OK. I couldn’t avoid them, though.
Main Floor’s Top View
Casa Loma depicts Sir Henry Pellatt’s exquisite taste of medieval European castle and love of details. It is something rare in residential areas nowadays. The private wooden elevator on the main floor, the 800 ft tunnel, and the stairway to the tower where you can overlook Toronto city landscape are the most interesting details of the mansion besides its lavish rooms made of the finest materials, from Italian to Ontario marble, from oak, teak to mahogany wood.
Lady Pellat’s Suite
Lady Pellat’s Bed: Homage to Wedgwood
The casa does not only display Sir Pellatt’s old glory, but also his long term dedication to Queen’s Own Rifles, exhibited in Queen’s Own Rifles Museum on the third floor, and his philanthropic activities in a number of organisations, namely Grace Hospital, Trinity College, and St. John’s Ambulance Brigade. Sir Henry was a true philanthropist, even his bankruptcy didn’t stop him from being one. That is how Canadian people honour him, a philanthropist, not a failed entrepreneur. As a tribute to Lady Pellatt, the casa exhibits Girl Guides of Canada museum on the second floor, emphasizing her support as its first commissioner.
The Round Room
The Guest Suite
One week before Christmas was a busy week for Casa Loma. Santa Claus came to the casa and groups of elementary school had their study tour and made wishes to Santa. Some rooms on the third floor and the great hall on the main floor were closed for elementary school events. It was a bit annoying. However, compared to what the mansion offered, it was just a minor complaint I shouldn’t sweat.
The Great Hall booked for children’s activity
Santa’s staring downstairs waiting for children coming to him
Main entrance and view from the casa tower
bowling alley remains undone
Unfinished swimming pool, bowling alley and shooting range on the lower ground are signs of diminishing finances, becoming the less elegant part of the mansion. On the same floor, you can see the entrance to the tunnel linking to the stables. I thought I was completely lost with no turning back as I walked through the empty tunnel, and I finally reached the stables. There were potting shed, garage, stalls, foyer, carriage room and tack rooms. Indeed, simpler than the rest of the rooms.
Whether I’m a solo traveler or with group of friends, presence of cute animals like squirrels have always been my BFF along the way. They always make me smile.
After leaving Casa Loma, don’t rush to the subway first. Take your time walking around Austin Terrace residential area. It is a peaceful and lovely high-end neighbourhood that middle-class people can only dream of. This place is more than just a residential area, it’s a heritage of Canadian architecture from time to time.
Austin Terrace is located 23 meters high just below St. Clair Avenue. Directly below the hill point is the 12,000 year old shore cliffs of the great glacial lake Iroquois formed during the last Ice Age. The city of Toronto below it was once under water.
The other castle across Casa Loma
Austin Terrace 5: a former mansion of EJ Lennox, the architect of Casa Loma. Today is provincial home of the Sisters Servants Of Mary Immaculate. Casa Loma’s mailing address is Austin Terrace 1.
Remember, majestic hill houses in Austin Terrace are more than one, even though Casa Loma is the most beautiful and famous of all. Next time you visit Casa Loma, make sure that it’s sunny, no rain and no rush, so you can have it all. Include Austin Terrace sightseeing in your agenda.