The “Sense of Place” of Casa Loma
In 1879 a 20-year-old man named Sir Henry Mill Pellatt became locally known for beating the amateur world record for running of the mile. This fueled the ambition and aspiration for success that he seemed to have been born with. Little did he know that in just over 20 years he would own the largest private home in North America. By the time he was thirty Sir Henry owned 21 companies. His newfound money and love of art that came from visits to Europe brought the idea of Casa Loma, a Gothic/Medieval style mansion that overlooks Toronto. It took 3 years to build and yet was only lived in for 10 years. However, it is now one of the most visited tourist destinations in Toronto and the perfect setting for weddings and events as well as movie and TV productions. After looking at the it’s history, character and physical features, Casa Loma’s “sense of place” can be easily defined as romantic, beautiful and a little bit tragic.
Sir Henry became a partner of his fathers stock brokerage firm at the young age of 17 and only a year later joined the Queens Own Rifles where he ended up becoming a commanding officer. He founded the Toronto Electric Light Company and was involved in many other wealthy companies, which soon made him extremely wealthy. In fact, at one point he controlled 25% of Canada’s economy. This wealth is what allowed him to build this unique home. He hired 300 workers and spent a few million dollars (an enormous sum at the time) to build it on a hill that looked over the city he had put so much work into. Almost ten years later, Sir Henry and his wife were forced to move out due to financial problems. The huge fees of maintaining the mansion and the ever-rising taxes from the city had run the family into bankruptcy. During the Great Depression not long afterwards, it was vacant and suffered from vandals. During World War Two, it was used as a hiding spot to build sonar devices because as the Canadian engineer in charge of finding a secret location said, “Who would suspect a freak castle..”. It was opened to the public in 1937 as a tourist attraction and has been running as such ever since, despite the ideas from many people who want it turned into a hotel or 5-star restaurant. “For the better part of a century, Torontonians have been blessed with an absolutely irreplaceable treasure. And through most of that time we have ignored it, abused it, defiled it and turned one of Toronto’s greatest landmarks into a monumental embarrassment.”-A comment Trelawny Howell (who is the great grandniece of Sir Henry Pellatt) made regarding Casa Loma. It is tragic how this monument of vast ambition, and the old home of one of the greatest contributors of early Toronto, is not being used to it’s greatest potential.
Casa Loma is Sir Henry’s legacy. Everything about it reflects his interests and passions. Even his wife’s suite of rooms were all painted in her trademark wedgewood blue. The character of the whole house is shown by simply looking at it. The medieval, gothic look of the architecture and the grandeur of the interior design depicts a romantic feel and the huge beautiful gardens show how much time and effort was put into the details. He also was said to have had some of the finest artwork from Europe, the place that fueled his design of the mansion. If you visit it now, it is under construction and is nowhere near to looking how it did when it was freshly built, before all the vandalism and neglect, so you get a sense of tragedy, knowing how it could look if it had been kept in good shape. It is used to host many events and weddings, as it does have majestic parts to it and is a little piece of historical beauty right in the middle of one of the busiest Canadian cities but hopefully one day it will be fully restored and be completed as Sir Henry had dreamed that it would.
Sir Henry looked to the...
Bibliography: “Casa Loma: Saving Toronto’s fabulous folly.” The Toronto Star” Opinion. Web. 21 May, 2011. 6 November, 2013.
This article gave a good perspective on how the mansion has become neglected and how it could be a lot better. It tells the tragic, yet romantic story of how Sir Henry built his way up in Toronto and used his money to build this house and then got it taken away just to be used a cheap tourist attraction. The writer gave some ideas of what it could be used for instead.
De Groot, Robin. “The Magic & Mystery of Casa Loma.” Online Design Magazine. Robin De Groot Design, 4 August, 2013. Web. 6 November, 2013.
This article was extremely descriptive in it’s use of words and also in the information it gave. It told me a lot of information about the history of Casa Loma and some details about the architecture. It also had a lot of good pictures of the mansion and it’s grounds.
Howell, Trelawny. “Casa Loma’s Fate.” Toronto Waterfront Magazine. Toronto Waterfront Magazine. Web. N.d. 6 November, 2013.
This magazine article was written by the great grandniece of Sir Henry, who is responsible for the building of Casa Loma. This gives her a personal perspective on things, and she made some good points about how it is not being used to it’s full potential. An obvious thing about this article is that it may be biased because she was in the family and she has strong opinions on the subject.
Figure 1: De Groot, Robin. “The Magic & Mystery of Casa Loma.” Online Design Magazine. Robin De Groot Design, 4 August, 2013. Web. 6 November, 2013.
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