I have just returned from a short stay in Toronto, Ontario’s capital and the largest city in Canada. The Canadian exchange rate being unfavorable these days, I thought it was better to enjoy being a tourist in my own country.
I have been to Toronto a few times, but rarely as a tourist. But going there as a tourist did not mean that I was going to fall back on the traditional CN Tower (which I have already visited anyway) or on the very popular new aquarium. I wanted to avoid the “cliché” places in Toronto and instead took the opportunity to visit a castle.
Uh, wait a second, there’s a castle in Toronto? Yes, and you can even get there by subway! Curiously, even though Casa Loma is one of Toronto’s star attractions, many people outside of the city do not know about it. Yet the Baroque building is beautiful and incongruous in the surrounding urban landscape.
Casa Loma was built in 1911 to be the home of a Toronto businessman, Sir Henry Pellatt. Designed by Canadian architect E.J. Lennox, the castle took three years to build at a cost of $ 3.5 million. It was then the largest private residence in the country. It has three floors, two secret passages, an indoor pool and bowling alleys (which will however never be fully completed). Pellatt did not hesitate to bring European craftsmen to complete the interior decoration of his castle and to make furniture design (his desk is a copy of Napoleon Bonaparte’s desk).
Unfortunately, Sir Henry Pellatt was in financial trouble after the First World War. An increase in municipal taxes in Toronto put him in a precarious financial situation. In 1923, he had no choice but to sell Casa Loma and to dispose of most of his furniture and works of art.
Casa Loma will be for a few years a luxury hotel, before becoming the property of the city that considered for a while the idea of demolishing it. The building will however be rented to the Kiwanis Club, which will begin to operate the castle as a tourist attraction.
A good part of Casa Loma has now been restored to its past splendor. It can be visited at your own leisure (audio guides are available for free). If some rooms seem vaguely familiar, it may be because the castle has been used as a filming location for many movies and TV series (including X-Men, Chicago, The Tuxedo…). If you are in Toronto, make sure to visit it. It’s going to make you a more interesting trip story to tell than your 20 minutes at the top of the CN Tower…