Toronto: 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?