Saturday, July 9, 2016
The Story Behind Casa Loma, Toronto
But let me start at the beginning. As noted, the “author” of our castle story was the bizarre yet fascinating Henry Pellatt.
Born in Kingston in 1839, young Henry moved with his family to Toronto where he attended Upper Canada College back when it was on King St W. Henry eventually joined his father’s very successful brokerage firm where he was to become one of the young nation’s most successful businessmen.
In an effort to outshine his fellow millionaires Sir Henry (his knighthood was awarded in 1905 to honour Henry’s commitment to and promotion of Canada’s military of the day) commissioned a 98-room mansion on which he spent $1.7 million (today more than $40 million). After living in his “castle” for about a decade, Sir Henry realized that the burden placed on his financial resources following the city’s market value re-assessment and the subsequent huge increase in his property tax bill. He decided to abandon the place. Sir Henry died in 1939 in the backroom of his former chauffeur’s Mimico residence.
For the next decade several plans for Casa Loma were put forward by several developers but none panned out. Fed up with this “white elephant” several city politicians demanded it be torn down and the money received placed in the city coffers.
Fortunately, the majority of city council really didn’t know what to do with the place until years later it was thrown a rescue line by the Kiwanis Club of West Toronto. In 1937 Kiwanis committed to operating Casa Loma as a tourist attraction which its members did for the next 74 years. During that time the city spent millions on the castle’s upkeep.
However, times were changing and the city wanted out of the tourist attraction business. To that end in 2012 local city councillors Josh Matlow and Joe Mihevc helped negotiate a business arrangement whereby the highly successful Liberty Group (Rosewater Club, Liberty Grand at Exhibition Place) would commit to spend more than $7 million (more than four times what Sir Henry spent on building and fitting out the place) to upgrade the castle in various ways. A concert venue in the Casa Loma’s “Glass Pavilion” is just one of those ways.
If you haven’t visit Casa Loma for some time you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what the Liberty Group has done with the place. And I’m told there’s more to come.
Please share this