Toronto is known for many things- the CN Tower, the Maple Leafs, Drake, the Weeknd, Kensington Market, to name a few- but a castle may not be the first thought to come to mind when you’re planning your trip to Canada’s largest city. Casa Loma, Spanish for “Hill House,” is a must see in your Toronto itinerary.
Although Casa Loma is a little ways outside of the downtown core, the sheer detailing of the walls and ceilings in its 98 rooms and 30 washrooms and the lavishness of the furniture, chandeliers and imported porcelain, make the castle a worthwhile commute on the TTC.
With its imposing exterior and lavish interior, Casa Loma reminded me of the Frick Collection in New York City. Both residences were built by wealthy industrialists; both boasted some of the best artwork in their respective countries; and both were rightfully converted into museums.
Why You Need to Visit Casa Loma
A quick history lesson:
Casa Loma was the home of one of Canada’s first wealthy businessmen, Sir Henry Pellatt, who founded the Toronto Electric Light Company in 1883. He was also knighted in 1905 for his military service with the Queen’s Own Rifles. Built from 1911-1914 for $3.5 million, Pellatt’s home was the largest private residence in North America.
Sir Pellatt’s numerous business, philanthropic and military connections meant a busy social calendar, of which organizing events consumed much of Lady Mary Pellatt’s time. As many as 50 servants would help Lady Pellatt keep the house in perfect order for her guests.
The Pellatts fell into debt in 1923 due to the government forcibly buying out the electric companies for public ownership by 1911 and their failed attempts at land ownership. They auctioned off many of their lavish belongings, totalling at $250,000 by the end of the auction, and were forced to leave their palace, which was later auctioned off at a starting bid of $1.5 million. At the onset of the Great Depression, the City of Toronto took ownership of the property for $27,303.45 owed in back taxes and was later turned into a tourist attraction by the Kiwanis Club of West Toronto in 1937. The City of Toronto remains the sole owner today.
I hadn’t done too much research before going to Casa Loma aside from the cost of admission, as I’ve learned that surprises tend to be the best part of exploring. Admission is $25 for adults, which includes a free audio tour of the castle. The audio tour was mostly informational with minimal commentary or context given to the residence or to the remaining furniture and decorations. I would recommend it if you hadn’t done much research, like me, however, it’s not essential to the experience there.
My favourite rooms…
Lady Mary’s parlour room, attached to her bedroom.
Lady Mary’s parlour room, part II.
The rug in Lady Mary’s parlour room.
Lady Mary’s bedroom – 2nd floor
I really enjoyed walking through Lady Mary’s bedroom, as it also included a personal parlour room. The chandeliers in her room were made of white porcelain with small paintings of flowers on them. She also had a small piano near the window, some couches and chairs, and a fire place. The room was mostly pinks, blues and yellows and I could imagine myself having a room in my hypothetical future home like it (well, the more affordable version)
The Yellow Room – 2nd floor
The yellow room, which is located in one of the towers of the castle, is a perfect circle. It was also one of Sir Henry’s many office rooms, however this one was used mainly to entertain business partners. The crown mouldings of this room were very intricate and I loved the extravagant gold tea set that was the centrepiece of the room. There was also a small upright piano in the room, which would’ve made for lovely entertainment at the time.
Skylight of the conservatory.
The Conservatory – 1st floor
Possibly my most favourite room in the house was the Conservatory. Although it did not have as many exotic flowers as I’m sure Sir Henry Pellatt had during the 1910s, the edges of the room were filled with beautiful troughs of flowers and had a beautiful fountain at the end of the room. The room was built in the south-east corner of the home, as it would receive the most sunlight- especially during the long winter months. The room also had a stain-glass skylight in the centre of the room, which adds to the beautiful, natural feel of the room. Apparently there are many weddings held in this room nowadays, and it’s very easy to see why.
Skylight in the Conservatory.
For your day trip to Casa Loma…
Address: 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto
Subway stop: Dupont Station
Admission: $25 per adult
I would aim for 2-3 hours to fully explore the grounds while you’re there. I wasn’t able to take the secret tunnel to get to the stables or explore much of the back yard while I was there, as Casa Loma was setting up for a corporate event later that night. Although there is a cafeteria in the basement of the castle, I would recommend packing a picnic and eating it in the adjacent Spadina Park, where you have a view of the castle and of the Toronto skyline, if you eat closer to the stairs. And if you have time, roam around the neighbourhood as well. Casa Loma is located in one of the wealthier neighbourhoods and some of the homes are quite beautiful and are beautifully landscaped.