Casa Loma Castle: A Medieval Castle in Modern-day Toronto, Canada
Isn't Toronto, Canada Rather Young to Have a Castle?
One often hears this question asked from visitors from abroad, especially from Europe where kingdoms and castles date back over many centuries. The Canadian Federation occurred on July 1, 1867. -Canada is just not so old to possess many of what we would normally be considered 'castles.'
Yet back in 1911, Sir Henry Mill Pellatt decided to fulfill his lifelong dream to build a medieval-like castle. On a prominent overlook above the city of Toronto, Canada using his wealth and fortune, his home, residence and ultimate undoing would be built.
With the aid of noted architect E.J. Lennox and 300 men working for nearly three years, the prominent financier, industrialist and former military man Sir Henry Mill Pellatt realized his dream. At a total cost of $3.5 million dollars at the time, the castle was home to his wife, servants and himself for less than ten year before financial misfortune drove him to abandon their home on the hillside. He was what we today would call an eccentric for his wild notion of spending lavishly on this dream castle and filling it with worldly period possessions.
Trouble with the Government of Canada and personal financial miscalculations ended the dreams of Sir Henry's life in the castle and he was forced to leave. Press of the day was not kind to disgraced Sir Henry. They poked fun and published articles berated the man's misuse of his personal fortunes. Newspapers of the era made political commentaries at his misfortune and fall from high society into financial ruin.
Today the castle Casa Loma is owned by the City of Toronto and open to the public, and is operated by the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma since 1937. Located just north of the Dupont Subway station, Casa Loma Castle is just a short 15 minute walk due north.
Approaching Casa Loma up the long steep stairway on the south, we walk along the east wall and glimpse the castle in the near distance. A fortress, a home and a monument to the dreams of a man.
Featuring some 98 rooms each furnished with era furniture and accoutrement, the castle boasts stately towers, secret passages, and staircases to the highest reaches and of course, magnificent estate gardens to explore.
The lower level has a wine cellar and an (unfinished) indoor Roman Pool, a snack bar, a gift Shop (The Palace Keep) and a notably, a meandering underground tunnel taking the intrepid tourist on a circuitous walk under the streets to the horse stables. This feature at Casa Loma Castle must not be missed should you decide to take a tour.
Nearly every room in the castle is open for viewing even though many rooms are partitioned behind clear gates to allow visitors just inside of the room. Visitors may take unguided tours, guided and audio tours are available with many areas offering content for both ASL (American Sign Language,) or content for the Visually Impaired (audio.)
Casa Loma offers seasonal events such as an Archery workshop where adults are given an opportunity to learn and test their hands-on skills with archery shooting.
Other seasonal offering include a multi-course Thanksgiving Feast served in the Conservatory and Library room. Admission for these events are booked in advance and also include the opportunity to explore the castle and grounds at your leisure. A chance to dine and be treated like royalty in style.
Something for Halloween at Casa Loma Castle
A featured event this October 27 and 28th in time for Halloween, you can track ghosts and spirits with renowned ghost trackers as you explore the underground passage to the Stables. Participants can even get to see and use instruments used by paranormal investigators as they search for spirits from beyond.
For this event, parts of the castle not normally open to the general public are opened to the guests. A spooky good time can be had as you track spirits through stone passageways and stately halls in this eerie castle.
There are three entire floors to explore. The main floor has a conservatory that was recently refurbished and re-opened to the public and it is vibrant and full of stately atmosphere from a by-gone era.
Also on the main level is the Garden Terrance, overlooking the Estate Gardens. Well-manicured lawns, trees and flowering plants of many type abound in this splendid garden. Come to visit the castle, but don't forget to tour the gardens to view nature's wonders and you walk along winding paths through the yard.
A taste for the elegant, nearly every room in Casa Loma offers something unique. A fireplace that has white marble mantle carvings and hardwood floor, elegant high back chairs, living and sleeping quarters are all viewable on your tour.
From the Garden Terrace looking upon the Estate Gardens and one of the several water fountains we see the abundance of beauty that is open to the public. Parts of the castle are under repair and upkeep and you may see some scaffolding but for the greater part, it is well to the sides and does not affect your tour experience.
Casa Loma Gargoyle
I don't know what the story is with this gargoyle. It seems out of place here, in the Estate Garden sitting at ground level. Looking upon it I notice immediately that it appears to have been broken in several places and cemented back together.
Perhaps it was damaged during transit or installation? It is good that it was not discarded for it lends a particular stately ambiance to the garden. Broken and fractured, sitting in silence with its back to the wall it lends something relevant to the life story of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt.
There is a solemn sadness in the face of this gargoyle. Perhaps something remaining from the spirit of the man that tried to fulfill a vision and build a personal lifestyle on the hill overlooking Toronto. He, just like the gargoyle, fell from grace and was also broken in two.
Casa Loma Castle in Toronto, Canada
Casa Loma is open daily 9:30am-5pm and you can visit their website at Casa Loma for more information. You can even purchase your tickets online and print them in advance. When in Toronto on business, vacation or just visiting, make time to spend a day at Casa Loma, Canada's medieval castle on the hillside overlooking beautiful Toronto, Canada.
(all images by author, Sept. 2010)