Toronto: Casa Loma

Casa Loma
Casa Loma

Casa Loma is a rich man’s folly. It was Sir Henry Pellatt’s idea of an aristocratic, European castle but to us it looks more Disney. Built between 1911 and 1914, it cost $3.5 million yet was valued at a mere $27,305 ten years later and Pellatt died penniless in 1939. How did this happen?

Part of Pellatt’s fortune came from the Toronto Electric Light Company, which he founded in 1883 and which obtained a monopoly on the supply of Toronto’s street lighting. However, he over-reached himself, taking his company further and further into debt. When the supply of electrical power was taken into public ownership he turned to land speculation, convinced that other rich people would want to build homes around Casa Loma. However, this didn’t take into account World War I, when Canadians put their money into war bonds, not homes, and after the war the economy slumped, bankrupting him completely. I can feel a little bit sorry for him, but not too much. We watched the short film on his life and he seemed like a man blinded by his own hubris.

Casa Loma spent some time as a hotel in the 1920s, but that failed too. The council acquired it in 1933 and over the years it developed into the tourist attraction it is today. It can also be hired for events and has appeared in many films – when we were there, a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was shooting. (Why? The original seems perfectly fine to me.)

Enough words, now for the pictures. The exterior:

The last photo in the gallery, taken from the house, shows the stables which you could walk to via an underground passage. In the stables you could see an exhibition of old cars and, on the way, the Casa Loma Hotel sign.

Some interior details – including the film set in the Great Hall:

Finally, my favourite part – the conservatory with its lovely fountain and beautiful ceiling:

There is another house – Spadina – very close to Casa Loma which you can also tour, but we’d had enough by this time. As there was still some of the afternoon left we got off the subway early and walked back via Yorkville. It has Toronto’s oldest library and a rather sweet Firehall.

The streets round about have an eclectic selection of designer stores and galleries.

We were pleased to discover a branch of Whole Foods – that solved the problem of where to eat that night. We were going to the theatre and needed something quick and easy, so a selection of veggie sushi and a bottle of white wine were purchased and enjoyed back in our apartment.

The play was The Judas Kiss by David Hare. I’d seen posters about town and my eye was caught by the star – Rupert Everett. A rave review from a fellow guest over breakfast one morning convinced us that we should go, and we were very glad we did. The first act was set just before Wilde went to prison, and in the second he had just been released. Everett was brilliant as both the ebullient and hopelessly optimistic Wilde and as the broken man he became. See it if you can!

The Ed Mirvish Theatre was also worth seeing – forgive the rather poor iPhone shots, but I hope they give some idea of the opulent surroundings.

I can’t remember if we were exhausted that night or not. I rather think we must have been, don’t you?

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31 thoughts on “Toronto: Casa Loma

  1. Birgit May 16, 2016 / 17:20

    I love Casa Loma even though I haven’t been there in years. The Conservatory is also my favourite room due to the Tiffany style ceiling. You did a lot in that one day. Must be nice to review all the photos

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh May 16, 2016 / 17:39

      It is! Just one more city post to go then Niagara, possibly next week.

      Like

  2. TanGental May 16, 2016 / 18:34

    Well that’s the definition of OTT. Hubris is right. As for the Judas Kiss we caught it in London with Everett too. Very fine performance. He’s perfect in the role, isn’t he?

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  3. Peta kaplan May 16, 2016 / 18:51

    What an interesting post with beautiful photos. I agree! The conservatory is gorgeous. Next time we visit family in Toronto we will be sure to make a stop here.

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    • Anabel Marsh May 16, 2016 / 20:00

      It’s well worth it – if only to marvel at the sheer bad taste in some of it!

      Like

  4. hilarymb May 16, 2016 / 20:50

    Hi Anabel – I bet you were exhausted …the play sounds wonderful – I’ve always enjoyed Rupert Everitt. That house is extraordinary … as too the other – but your photos have done you justice … so interesting to see everything … cheers Hilary

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh May 16, 2016 / 21:35

      Thanks Hilary! Though most photos by t’other half so I’ll pass the compliment on.

      Like

  5. restlessjo May 16, 2016 / 21:51

    Certainly sounds like a full day, Anabel. 🙂 Not the prettiest construction I ever saw, but that conservatory does look lovely.

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    • Anabel Marsh May 16, 2016 / 22:28

      I think the play has moved on, but you never know where it might end up next!

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  6. smackedpentax May 17, 2016 / 09:05

    I remember going there with my parents when I lived in Ontario 50 years ago. I had forgotten about it all until I read your post. Superb photos and thanks for bringing memories back 🙂

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh May 17, 2016 / 09:08

      Thank you – glad to have stirred memories. Most photos are taken by my husband – I always pass any compliments on!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lynne Rickards May 17, 2016 / 10:14

    You keep reminding me of places I should have taken my family on the last trip! Casa Loma we could skip, but Yorkville is a great area. I must be better organised next time rather than wandering up and down Yonge Street. At least we were able to go on a tour of the Elgin Theatre, quite by chance. That is well worth doing. It sounds like you and John are much more organised!

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    • Anabel Marsh May 17, 2016 / 12:32

      Yes, the Elgin Theatre would be on my list for next time. It’s probably easier to organise just two of us than four! Especially if you have to reach consensus on where to go.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. findingnyc May 18, 2016 / 03:03

    I think the play is coming next to Brooklyn, also with Rupert Everett – I just saw a poster for it in the subway station today! I love the look of the theater. The older theaters have such interesting, ornate details – usually with a lot of gilding as well. Another great post, Anabel. Thanks for taking us with you on your adventures. Best, Susan

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh May 18, 2016 / 07:24

      Thanks Susan – Rupert Everett is keeping busy then! I agree, we have some beautiful old theatres in Glasgow too. They always have a great atmosphere.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. rosemaylily2014 May 18, 2016 / 10:02

    Am enjoying your Toronto series Anabel 🙂 Have relatives there – distant cousins but we have met up at family functions before and they are keen for us to visit one day!

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  10. Beth Walsh's Photoblog May 19, 2016 / 16:50

    Casa Loma and Yorkville go on my must see list for TO. Sometimes the last places you see are the ones closest to you. I love you reference to Disney, tells me just what to expect. 🙂

    Like

  11. Liesbet May 19, 2016 / 20:22

    Casa Loma looks very “cool”! I like the outside look of castles and structures like that. I would have been exhausted as well, after such a day of touring. You make such good use of your time on city trips, Anabel!

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh May 19, 2016 / 20:40

      I suppose I take the view that we might not go back so I need to see as much as possible!

      Like

  12. jazzfeathers May 23, 2016 / 08:30

    You know? I don’t really know what I think about the Casa Loma. It looks… I don’t know… too much and – can I say? – too fake. But I can totally see it as a 1920s hotel for some reason 🙂

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    • Anabel Marsh May 23, 2016 / 08:48

      Totally fake! Far more money than taste – though it appears he didn’t even have the money in the end. Yes, I could see your 20s characters having a ball there.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. lisadorenfest May 30, 2016 / 22:49

    I actually read this before I lost internet on 22 May. We have it back now and here I am. Casa Loma is an amazing story from boom to bust from decay to rebirth from home to movie set (I agree why remake Rocky Horror as the first was so good…but what a setting). The ceiling was my favorite.

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