Casa Loma is a Toronto landmark almost all city residents can recognize. You may have attended a show, an escape room or dinner at Casa Loma, but do know about its fascinating history? Let’s break it down.

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How Casa Loma began

casa loma
Image via City of Toronto Archives

We have to go back to 1859 when Sir Henry Pellatt, who would eventually build Casa Loma, was born in Kingston, Ontario. Pellatt is considered “the dreamer behind Toronto’s famous heritage site.”

As a partner in his family business, Pellatt and Pellatt; Sir Henry Pellatt was a business visionary.

In the same year that Thomas Edison developed steam-generated electricity, Sir Henry Pellatt realized that supplying electricity could be profitable, founding the Toronto Electric Light Company in 1883, which would be Pellatt’s major source of income.

According to Casa Loma, Pellatt was inspired by his travels to Europe, stating it “Gave him the love for fine art and architecture, which would spur his vision of Casa Loma-House on the Hill.”

In 1911 Pellatt drew up plans with Canadian architect E.J. Lennox to build his dream home, Casa Loma.

Casa Loma took three years and $3,500,000 to build and was considered to have “surpassed any private home in North America.”

With “soaring battlements and secret passageways,” it paid homage to the castles and knights of the past and to this day it remains one of the only true castles in North America!

Pellatt’s fortunes could not sustain Casa Loma forever though. To finance expansion, Pellatt and Pellatt went further and further into debt, eventually forcing Pellatt to give up his castle.

Later years

Architect William Sparling put forward a proposal to convert the Casa Loma house to a Toronto luxury hotel one year after Pellatt left. The Casa Loma Hotel was open from 1926 to 1929.

In 1933, the City of Toronto took ownership of the property for $27,303.45 owed in back taxes.

There were many suggestions for new uses of the building which included a high school, museum or art gallery for visitors to Toronto and a war veteran’s convalescence home.

None of the projects proved feasible and the City of Toronto considered demolishing North America’s Castle, which left the landmark vacant from 1933 to 1937.

The Kiwanis Club of West Toronto began operating Casa Loma as a tourist attraction in 1937. This agreement continued until 2011 and in August 2011, the new Casa Loma Corporation was formed.

Today, the City of Toronto remains the sole owner of the property!

Did you learn something new about Casa Loma, Toronto?