Casa Loma – North America’s only castle

North America’s only castle, Casa Loma, is a Gothic Revival style house and gardens in midtown Toronto, Canada, that is now a museum and landmark.

Constructed over a three-year period from 1911–1914, and designed by the architect E. J. Lennox, Casa Loma took more than 300 men and approximately $3.5 million to complete. At 98 rooms, it was the largest private residence in Canada. Notable amenities included an elevator, an oven large enough to cook an ox, two vertical passages for pipe organs, central vacuum, two secret passages in Sir Henry’s ground-floor office and three bowling alleys which were never completed due to the start of World War I when construction was halted.

Originally a residence for financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt and his wife Mary. A prominent Toronto financier and military officer, through wise investments in electrical development, real estate and the Canadian Pacific Railroad, Pellaatt was a man who was said to “own” Canada at the dawn of the 20th Century. In 1905, he was knighted for his involvement in bringing electricity to the City of Toronto from Niagara Falls.

Most of the third floor was left unfinished, and today serves as the Regimental Museum for The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. Pellatt joined the Regiment as a Rifleman and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the Commanding Officer. He was knighted for his dedication to the Regiment, and later served as the Honorary Colonel and was promoted Major-General upon retirement.

During the depression that followed World War One, the City of Toronto increased Casa Loma‘s annual property taxes, and Pellatt, already experiencing financial difficulties, was forced to auction off $1.5 million in art and $250,000 in furnishings. Sir Henry was able to enjoy life in the house for less than ten years, leaving in 1923.

It was later operated for a short time as a luxury hotel, and during the late 1920s Casa Loma was also a popular nightspot. The Orange Blossoms, a major swing era dance band later known as Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, played there for eight months in 1927–1928.

The city seized Casa Loma in 1933 for unpaid back taxes but the castle was extremely run down and the city was motioning for the castle to be demolished. Following years of neglect, the Castle was leased from the City and restored by the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma which led to the Castles’ official opening as a tourist attraction in 1937. Today it is one of Toronto‘s most popular tourist attractions and in May 2011 the City of Toronto announced plans to resume management of Casa Loma after reaching a financial settlement with the Kiwanis Club.