Casa Loma-I don’t know what to do with it,” wails Toronto’s property chief

Deciphering the TPL scrapbook notations from the early 1900’s this article moist likely appeared in Feb of 1918 in the Globe

“Casa Loma-I don’t know what to do with it,” wails Toronto’s property chief

CASA-LOMA is to become a city view-place. At twenty-five cents apiece, visitors may tread the chill and echoing waste spaces of Toronto’s wonder building.

Thus the temporary fate of the famous Casa Loma—Spanish for House on the Hill—seemingly has been decided. Proposals or the solution of the problem of if Casa Loma have for ten years included turning it into an apartment house, making it a night club,
which was done for a while; using it as headquarters of the Orange Order, as a monastery, as a school, as a war museum, as an old people’s home for writers, musicians and artists—and complete demolition.

Most recent bright idea was to make it the palatial home of the Dionne quintuplets, giving them the run of the place with a suite each not only for themselves but for Dr. Allan Dafoe, the parents, the guardians, the nurses, servants, police guards
and other persons of their court.

Idea not suggested might have been to tear it down and build it up in Exhibition Park as a permanent building of much note. Probably run a bit expensive, but final intake would justify. After all, if it is going to be a view-place it might be well
to get it down where it can ‘be seen without a big detour for American tourists on their way to Callander.

For the benefit of those who do not know, it may be explained that Casa Loma is a turreted, baronial mansion big enough to billet an infantry brigade, which sits on a hill dominating

Toronto, within the city limits. It is said to be unique in size and style on this continent and to have few peers in England or Europe, where palaces, castles and mansions abound — though many of these are, of course, larger.

Conceiver, builder, former owner and former dweller therein for a few years was Sir Henry Pellatt of Toronto, then a wealthy stock broker. He was also a military fan, an officer in the militia, former commander of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto,
on whom he spent much money. One of his most notable military benefactions was paying the expenses of 750 men of the Queen’s Own ‘to England and back. The late Queen Victoria honored him with an autographed photograph.

Casa Loma, which was begun in 1911 and finished three years later, was said to have cost in those days when building costs were much lower than they are today $1,700,000-and Sir Henry was credited with spending another $1,000,000 on art treasures
and furnishings ,these long since sold by public auction so that today Casa Loma is bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.

In 1925 when Casa Loma was remodelled temporarily into an apartment hotel, a valuation was placed on it of $4,000,000. Today its value is purely an arbitrary one. It is on the hands of the city and at times it has seemed that the city was almost
prepared to pay someone to take it away.

In 1923 Sir Henry Pellatt ceased living in a section of the great mansion, heavily taxed, and in 1933 it was purchased by the city at a tax sale for $27,305. A year later, when the owner failed to redeem it, the city became its reluctant owner.

“I don’t know what to do with it” wailed the city property commissioner. “What can one do with it? I have got to find the money to pay for caretakers.”

At that time Sir Henry Pellatt’s opinion was asked, and he said: “It always had been my ambition to build the finest house in Canada not so much to live in as to leave the city equipped and finished as a war museum.”

He has often said that he intended it as a war museum

Sir Henry is also recorded as explaining how for thirty years he travelled Europe, visited every castle of note and photographed scores of turrets, battlements, windows, moats, drawbridges and other medieval architecture with a view of some day
of building the castle of his dreams on a Toronto hill.

Thus Casa Loma emerged with fragments of Scottish castles, Italian fortresses, English turrets, bits of Picardy, Rhine trimmings, Spanish suggestions, Austrian motifs from Alpine chalets in its gray bulk of stone from the Credit valley.

The architect was the late E.J. Lennox who built the Toronto city hall, which Casa Loma is credited with resembling to a degree, especially in terms of its attic and tower treatment. Mr. Lennox said that Casa Loma was really French baronial style.

At least , it reared itself, a veritable Rock of Gibraltar, as a notable dwelling for one man.

It stands in hillside grounds of six acres, with a frontage of 546 feet and depth of 480 surrounded by a wall of boulders. The house itself is 200 feet long by 100 feet deep and has a height at its highest turret of nearly 300 feet

Its interiors are magnificent . A baronial hall is 80-by 80 by 20 feet. The dining room is 70 by 60 feet and could seat 100 guests. The former library , 80 by 27 feet, is big enough for a convention.

In the baronial hall is a fireplace wide enough to roast an ox whole. One bedroom, formerly Sir Henry’s, is 60 by 40 feet.

The place is credited with having 100 rooms. On the upper bedroom floor were no less than 17 suites of rooms, with from two to five rooms each. There are 15 bathrooms and 25 open fireplaces. Three bronze and glass doors were said to have cost
$14,000 apiece.

In the basement, though never finished, were bowling alleys, shooting gallery, swimming tank, and Turkish baths. From the basement ran a tunnel wide enough to let an auto though underground to the stables, worth $200,000.

In July, 1924, the contents of this modern feudal castle were placed under the auctioneer’s hammer and costly things were bought cheaply by the connoisseurs and ordinary cash customers.

The six days of auctioning brought in a little over $135,000, only a fraction of the original cost.

Since that, except for the brief period when Casa Loma was a dance hall, the place has been deserted The only people entering, if you except inquisitive small boys, have been city caretakers trying to keep at bay the ravages of snow, rain, and

The other day the writer was permitted to wander through its emptiness.

I was never in Casa Loma before, never saw it when it was humanized by furnishings and the presence of man. Now it is nothing but a vast bewildering, crumbling vault.

Not only is the panelling in places badly warped but here and there souvenir hunters have sliced off a bit of carving. In places the fine hardwood floors are heaved out of place. But beneath each floor is solid concrete and it is said that each
will bear a weight of five …….at any place.

The great entrance hall is two tall storeys high. Aloft are the organ pipes. Not really organ pipes but imitation tubes. An organ was never installed and even if one had been its music would not have come out through these tubes. They were just
to give tone.

On this floor are the great rooms, library, dining room, drawing room, conservatory and the once handsome room that was Sir Henry’s study. From this last room are still two secret passages, each hidden by a panel, which opened to an electric
push button. Now there is no electricity, but it is possible by hand, if you know the panels, to open them. One leads down to the basement. The other leads up to the master bedroom which was once Sir Henry’s. You can still use them.

Once the castle had 5,000 electric lights but now there is not a bulb in place and in the rafter regions of the attics it is necessary to use a flashlight to get around. There is an elevator, panelled, but it does not run. Nothing runs in Casa
Loma except when water comes. trickling in; nothing lives-.but the pigeons in the turrets and attics.

These turrets seem to have no purpose from the inside, what-ever their scenic value. Great places to put trunks, old baseball bats and last winter’s rubbers for storage, but you couldn’t begin to use even a hundredth part of the space available
with all the trunks, old baseball bats and rubbers you could find along the block.

All these things the visitors will see and wonder at for a full quarter’s worth of wonder. It would cost a trip to Europe to see as much of former grandeur. For Casa Loma is not to be sniffed at as a castle. I saw castles of Spain, old buildings
which the tourist treats with awe, which were no more wonderful. Nobody thinks of sniffing at European buildings, however odd because some dead and gone builder let his fancy run free.

Take that church which Ivan the Terrible built at a corner of the Red Square in Moscow, the one with the seven—or is it eight? –onion-topped minarets—the one which was built by an Italian architect whose eyes, legend says, Ivan put out lest
he duplicate it. That church was the result of a man’s inspiration, and so it stands to-day, preserved by th0e Soviets.

Consider the cluster of churches built by various czars within the Kremlin walls, not one church, but half a dozen churches. People look at them with wonder. _ People will look at Casa Loma with wonder and long after Sir Henry is gone and the
grows mystic with memory, it will stand as a monument to his imagination.



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