IF every man's home is his castle, then Sir Henry Mill Pellatt certainly knew how to live. His former home was a 98-room Gothic style castle in midtown Toronto, Ontario that's now a city landmark.
Casa Loma (House on the Hill) was the fairy-tale home of Sir Pellatt, a well-known Canadian financier and soldier, who was best known for bringing hydro-electricity to Toronto by harnessing the power of Niagara Falls for electricity.
Sir Pellatt purchased 25 lots and engaged noted architect Edward J. Lennox, the architect who designed Toronto's old city hall, to help him realize a life-long dream — the creation of a medieval castle based on his life-long fascination with European castles.
Casa Loma became known as the largest private residence ever constructed in Canada. Sir Henry borrowed the most pleasing elements of Norman, Gothic and Romanesque styles to create his castle. It was constructed by 300 workers over a three-year period from 1911–1914; costs soared from $250,000 to $3.5 million.
Construction on the house was halted at the start of World War I. Still. The house included 30 bathrooms and Sir Henry's private bath included a free-standing shower with six heads. Other amenities included electrical power, a telephone exchange with 59 phones, elevator, oven large enough to cook an ox, two vertical passages for pipe organs, and a central vacuum, two secret passages in Sir Henry's ground-floor office, and three uncompleted bowling alleys.
The castle grounds included a large fountain and formal gardens.During the depression after World War I, the City of Toronto increased the annual property taxes from $600 per year to $1,000 a month for Casa Loma. Sir Pellatt, already experiencing financial difficulties, was forced to auction off $1.5 million in art and $250,000 in furnishings.
A castle is a home unless taxes are unpaid. Sir Henry enjoyed his castle home for less than 10 years, leaving in 1923. The strain of maintaining his large home led to ill-advised and unsuccessful real estate investments. The Province expropriated his electrical power generating business, and his aircraft manufacturing business was later taken over as part of the war effort during World War I. Combined, these difficulties led to his near bankruptcy and forced him and Lady Pellatt to leave Casa Loma.
It was later operated briefly as a luxury hotel and in the late 1920s, it was a popular nightspot. The Canadian Orange Blossoms, later known as Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, played there for eight months in 1927–1928, before leaving for a North American tour and becoming a major swing era dance band.
Most of the third floor was left unfinished, and now serves as the Regimental Museum for The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. Pellatt joined the Regiment as a Rifleman, rose through the ranks, becoming the Commanding Officer and knighted for his dedication to the Regiment. Later, Pellatt served as the Honorary Colonel and was promoted Major-General upon retirement.
The city seized Casa Loma in 1933 for $27,303 in back taxes. The castle was extremely run down and the city was calling for it to be demolished. In 1937, it was leased by the Kiwanis Club of Toronto (currently called the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma) and a 15-year restoration was undertaken. Today, Casa Loma is one of Toronto's top sightseeing attractions.