The famous Castle that Sir Henry Pellatt built in Toronto.
Casa Loma, 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, 1920.
When my family first moved to Toronto in 1974 the CN Tower was under construction and from our street in Forest Hill we could see the Tower going up every day. In those days Casa Loma was run by a Social Club and was a cheap tourist attraction full of half truths and myth. The whole place was largely empty and looked terrible but it still fascinated people. Casa Loma is the main house and across the street and connected by an underground tunnel are the stables and garage, another mansion on the corner was also built prior to the main house where Sir Henry Pellatt and his wife lived until the main building was completed.
The Stables and garage across the street from Casa Loma connected by an underground tunnel
The whole complex was built between 1911-1914 at a time when Canada was a very young and prosperous nation full of intrepid business men like Sir Henry. All had ideas of living like Barons and their personal wealth, in an age when income tax did not exist, made it possible. Sir Henry would live there until 1923 when he was forced out by bankruptcy.
Major General, Sir Henry Mill Pellatt 1859-1939 was an entrepreneur, his entrepreneurship helped the industrialization of Ontario at the beginning of the 20th century.
He is notable for his role in bringing hydro-electricity to Toronto, Ontario, for the first time, and also for his large château in Toronto, called Casa Loma, which was the biggest private residence ever constructed in Canada. Casa Loma would eventually become a well-known landmark of the city. His summer home and 800 acre farm in King City later became Mary Lake Augustinian Monastery.
Pellatt was also a noted supporter of the Boy Scouts of Canada. His first wife, Mary, was the first Chief Commissioner of the Girl Guides of Canada.
Pellatt was born in Kingston, Ontario, the son of Henry Pellatt (1830-1909), a Glasgow-born stockbroker in Toronto,and Emma Mary Pellatt (née Holland). He was related to the famous glassmaker Apsley Pellatt (1763–1826).
He was educated at Upper Canada College before leaving in 1876 to join his father’s stock brokerage company, Pellatt and Osler, as a clerk.
Pellatt married twice, first to Mary Dodgson in Toronto in 1882 and, after Mary’s death in 1924, to Catharine Welland Merritt in Toronto in 1927. With his first wife, he had one son, Reginald, who was born in 1885.
Pellatt enlisted as a rifleman with The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada on November 2, 1876. He rose through the ranks and eventually became the Commanding Officer. In 1905, he was created a Knight Bachelor by King Edward VII for his service with The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.
In 1910, Pellatt took the entire 600-man regiment (including its horses) to England for military training at his expense, to mark the Regiment’s 50th anniversary. The military exercises lasted from August 13 to October 3, 1910.
Pellatt later served as the regiment’s Honorary Colonel and was promoted to the rank of Major-General upon his retirement from the regiment. In addition, he was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in 1910.
From 1911 to 1923, he was the Knight Principal of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor.
Much of Pellatt’s fortune was made through investments in the railway and hydro-electric industries in Canada, including the Toronto Electric Light Company. However, the strain of maintaining his large castle led him to ill-advised real estate investments, which were unsuccessful. The Provincial Government 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 in 1923. They therefore moved to their farm at Mary Lake in King City. The contents of Casa Loma were sold at auction for pennies on the dollar.
After he died on March 8, 1939, thousands of people lined Toronto streets to witness his funeral procession, and he was buried with full military honours. He is interred at Forest Lawn Mausoleum in Toronto.
Military Funeral of Sir Henry Pellatt at the Toronto Armoury.
Today Casa Loma is a museum to a period in Canadian History, the Castle is far more interesting now, it has been refurbished with the help of both the Regiment of Sir Henry and the Social Club who run the place and also the important revenu made from movie rights and special event held at the Castle allow for its upkeep. It is well worth visiting, situated in a beautiful neighbourhood of the City.
Front and back views of this impressive building.