Among Toronto’s modern buildings, Casa Loma Castle stands out. This chic neo-Gothic building cannot be overlooked when visiting Canada. A rich Canadian once lived here, and today it houses a museum. You can also rent the castle for weddings or parties.
The castle with the unexpected Canadian Spanish name Casa Loma, meaning “house on the hill,” really stands on one of Toronto’s higher elevations. Combining different architectural styles, this intricate palace looks very colourful, as if transferred to the New World directly from medieval Europe. Now it houses a museum. Not a single tourist trail through the city center bypasses this lovely complex. Here you can also witness a rich wedding or a lavish private party for the lucky few, for whom the high cost of rent is no object.
Casa Loma is another Canadian record: it is considered the most significant private mansion in the country.
The history of Casa Loma Castle dates back to 1903. A Canadian oligarch, Sir Henry Pellat, bought a plot of land to build the house he had dreamed of since childhood. The castle was designed by Edward Lennox, a famous Canadian architect who designed 70 buildings in Toronto alone. The castle’s construction on the famous Canadian architect, Edward Lennox project, lasted from 1903 to 1906 and cost 3.5 million Canadian dollars.
The First World War outbreak did not allow the complete interior decoration of the house. Despite this, the castle house was admired and amazed by its decoration. With 98 rooms, the house is the largest private property in Canada. A unique library, a glazed veranda turned into a small botanical garden that was equipped with steam heating, shower rooms far ahead of its time, a two-story organ, and various secret passages all make it look like a castle from ancient fairy tales.
The castle’s main building has an underground passage connecting the house with the stables. In addition, there was an indoor swimming pool in the project, but it was never built. Only old photographs next to the cement box speak of the grandiosity of the plans.
Unfortunately, the war and financial downturn took a heavy toll on Sir Henry Pellat’s economic fortunes. Exorbitant taxes that nearly doubled forced him to sell his dream home under the hammer and settle on his farm.
Casa Loma was used as a respectable hotel, then as a stage for a while. But, in 1933, ownership passed to the state against unpaid taxes that had accumulated, which was almost $30 million. For many years the authorities could not decide for what purposes such a non-standard structure could be used. Among the many ideas were: a school, an art gallery, a veterans’ home, and they even wanted to give it to a family with five babies. However, none of the ideas were approved, and soon the authorities raised the question of its demolition.
In 1936, the famous Kiwanis Club proposed turning the castle into a tourist attraction. The authorities, without thinking twice, gave their consent, and in 1937 the castle opened its doors to all comers.
What to See
In this unusual building, you can admire the Gothic restraint, the elegance of the Norman style and the luxury of the Gilded Age of North America. The interior furnishings eloquently testify to the enormous wealth of its owner. A walk through the 98 rooms of the palace is an aesthetic pleasure. There’s a huge library with ornate ceiling bas-reliefs, an organ occupying two floors, an exposition of rifles, and a whole gallery with a collection of paintings by Canadian artists, collected by Sir Pellat. Crowning the building is an observation deck with a beautiful view of the lake and the city.
The house is equipped with all the technical gadgets that existed in the early 20th century: ventilation system, elevator, heating, bathrooms, telephone and even underground pipes with steam-heated plants. There would have been an indoor pool, too, but they didn’t have time to complete it. Instead, the building is riddled with tunnels and passages, one of which leads to the stables where the photo gallery is located.
The homestead park is open from April to October, with live music concerts held in the glass pavilion on Tuesdays in the summer.
There is a cozy restaurant in the building, and the local shop sells original souvenirs depicting the castle.
Information for Visitors
Address: 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, ON M5R 1X8, Canada
Opening hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed December 25)
Cost of admission tickets:
adults – $30;
seniors (65+) – $25;
Teens (14 to 17 years) – $25;
Children (ages 4 to 13) – $20; children under 3 years old – free of charge.