Casa Loma and the Pellatts
Sir Henry Mill Pellatt 1959-1939
Casa Loma Stables
The Stables of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt's Casa Loma
There are five plaques in Toronto about Casa Loma.
All can be seen on this page.
Photo by Alan L Brown - Posted September, 2006
Photo by Alan L Brown - Posted July, 2011
Photo by Alan L Brown - Posted July, 2011
Plaque coordinates: 43.677552 -79.408211
Of all the grand houses ever built on this escarpment, Casa Loma is the grandest. Meaning "House (on the) Hill", it was the romantic vision of the industrialist Sir Henry Pellatt (1859-1939). Pellatt made his fortune harnessing the power of Niagara Falls to electrify the streets and homes of Toronto. A flamboyant entrepreneur, he was fascinated by the Middle Ages. Pellatt was knighted in 1905 as patron and commander of the Queen's Own Rifles, a Canadian militia regiment. His towered mansion designed by architect E.J. Lennox in 1909 is an extravagant medieval fantasy. At 98 rooms, it is Canada's largest house. The Pellatts moved into Casa Loma in 1913 and lived there for eleven years. In 1924, faced with severe financial setbacks, Pellatt was forced to sell his cherished home. After an unsuccessful attempt as an apartment-hotel, in 1937 this landmark was taken over by the West Toronto Kiwanis Club who continue to manage the castle as a popular tourist attraction.
Photo by contributor Pancheta Barnett - Posted July, 2010
Photo by Alan L Brown - Posted July, 2010
Photo Source - Wikipedia
Plaque coordinates: 43.67835 -79.40963
At the peak of his dramatic career, Sir Henry Mill Pellatt was one of Canada's most powerful businessmen. An ambitious financier who became wealthy through bold investments in electricity, real estate, and mining, Pellatt helped to bring electric street lights to Toronto and to develop the first Canadian hydroelectric generating station at Niagara Falls.
In 1901, Pellatt became commanding officer of The Queen's Own Rifles, a militia regiment he had joined at the age of 17. His leadership of this regiment and his role in the development of electric power in Ontario earned him a knighthood in 1905.
In 1913, Pellatt and his wife Mary moved into Casa Loma, designed for them by architect E.J. Lennox. It was one of North America's grandest residences. Ten years later, the Pellatts were forced to leave after failed investments severely reduced their wealth.
Major General Sir Henry Mill Pellatt died in 1939, and was honoured with one of Toronto's largest military funerals.
Photo by the City of Toronto - Posted September, 2011
Photo and transcription by contributor Wayne Adam - Posted September, 2011
Plaque coordinates: 43.684672 -79.410776
Casa Loma was thought to be pretentious, confused and not a "real" castle. It did not "fit in" with Toronto, and, in addition to the Norman and Scottish style of its towers, there were English, Irish, Italian and Rhenish architectural influences. One criticism cites Casa Loma's architecture as a protest against the ugliness of the Industrial Age. Another states that it reflects the 18th century movement of Gothic Imagination, which grew from academics and architects who rejected the style of "perfection" found in Greek and Roman architecture. Gothic literature, such as Walpole's The "Castle of Otronto", strongly affected gothic architecture, it evoked sentiments of the time: a pervading sense of fear, melodrama, high romance, the exotic, supernatural horror and irrationality. In this regard, Casa Loma is not fake, but a true work of fiction.
Photos by Alan L Brown - Posted September, 2006
Plaque coordinates: 43.679225 -79.410703
In 1905 Sir Henry Pellatt purchased land which had been the private golf course of Albert Austin of nearby Spadina. The following year, anticipating construction of Casa Loma, he hired E.J. Lennox to design and build these stables, estimated to have cost $250,000. The stalls were made of Spanish mahogany and the floors were covered in tiles set in a zig-zag pattern so that the horses would not slip. When the main castle was completed, it was connected to the stables by a tunnel. Here, in 1944, in utmost secrecy, the Royal Navy placed an assembly plant for ASDIC, an early form of sonar which was vital in the battles of the Atlantic. The existence of this factory was disclosed only after the Second World War had ended.
Photo by contributor Christopher Lancaster - March 22, 2008
The northern part of the Casa Loma Estate, comprising the Hunting Lodge, Potting Shed, Greenhouses and the Stables complex was begun in 1905 by builder Herbert Elgie, according to the design of the prominent Toronto architect E.J. Lennox. Sir Henry Pellatt, one of Edwardian Canada's wealthiest men, was a prominent industrialist, financier and military officer of the Queen's Own Rifles Regiment. he took up residence in the Hunting Lodge with his wife Mary in 1906, and watched as their permanent home, Casa Loma, was constructed across the street between 1911-1913.
The Stables complex was the first building erected on the estate, and accommodated Pellatt's Thoroughbreds, Hackneys, Clydesdales and Percherons, as well as his much loved 'chargers' Prince and The Widow. An impressive structure, the Stables features red brick construction, cast stone trim and a Mannerist-inspired design that owes much to the stables of large European houses.
Situated around a central courtyard, the two elaborate entrance blocks are the main features of the L-shaped complex. The northerly doorway opens into the Stables, while the westerly doorway opens into the Garage. Both entrances feature heavily blocked engaged columns that support heraldic beasts and the Pellatt crest. Other notable elements include a stone squirrel (representing industry) and the QOR Regimental insignia on the Stables tower.
The Stables served not only as accommodation for horses and carriages but provided small apartments for the stable hands and groomsmen on the upper floors. Beneath the stables were rooms for propagating mushrooms, asparagus and rhubarb. The interior of the ground level of the Stables features a carriage room with wooden trusses, walls clad in the regimental colours of the Queen's Own Rifles, mahogany stalls and Spanish tile flooring.
The stalls still bear the names of Pellet's much loved horses- Casa Loma Belle, Prince Highgate (Prince), Matchless (of Londesborough), Lord Kitchener, The Widow and Indian Chief. Some of these horses were carriage horses, and others saddle horses, but almost all had won numerous coveted prizes and championships throughout North America. The ribbons that they had won covered one wall of the Stables, and the trophies collected filled a room.
Matchless and Lord Kitchener were registered Hackney Horses and the latter had never been beaten in the show ring. Indian Chief, grandson of the famous American racehorse Hanover, was a young chestnut Thoroughbred who was schooled in dressage by Pellatt's stable manager, Thomas Cushing. The Widow was the only Canadian bred horse in the stables and was a much-loved mount, accompanying Pellatt twice to Britain for military maneuvers.
When Pellett moved out of Casa Loma for the last time in 1923, his horses moved with him to the fine accommodations of Mary Lake. Mary Lake was Pellatt's country estate where he raised prize-winning cattle, sheep, horses and fowl, and was situated in King Township, a half an hour north of Toronto.
In 1936, The Kiwanis Club of West Toronto (later known as the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma) entered into a lease agreement with the City of Toronto, who had acquired the estate from Pellatt for non-payment of property taxes. In 1937, the property was opened to the public as a heritage attraction. Who would have imagined that a short time later the Stables would serve as a top secret location for the assembly of a newly developed technology.
ASDIC, named for its inventors, stands for Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee. It was an early form of sonar and could detect a U-boat at a distance of 8 km. This device enabled Allied naval vessels to search for and destroy enemy submarines. As the original production site for ASDIC had been bombed in London, a new assembly location was found in 1941 in the Casa Loma Stables. Little did the touring public realize that behind a small padlock and a sign which read "Construction in progress-sorry for the inconvenience" ASDIC was being secretly assembled.
The ASDIC project continued at Casa Loma until the end of the war, with only a few members of the Kiwanis Club being privy to the secret. Although Sir Henry had passed away in 1939 he surely would have been proud to have known the essential role that his Stables had played in the victory of the Allied Forces in the Second World War.
Posted August 9, 2012
Excellent, I want to go visit. What a great movie this would make. Thanks so much for the info. Job well done. Alice
Posted July 21, 2012
this is a wonderful true story, has a movie been made of this? if not it should be. starting with his father all the way to where his funds diminished due to the war, the auction of his fine items where he recouped very little money. him living with a servant and the grande funeral toronto gave him. this would make a fantastic movie foe history buffs and most in general. to bring a dream of this multitude to reality and to have to give it up had to be extremely devastating to him. in these days we all can relate to that story and our homes are less grand than casa loma. put this on film if not already.
Posted May 22, 2012
This was my great great grandfather. My grandfather was Howard Pellatt. Sir Henry would have been his grandfather. I had heard about this castle growing up and my Uncle Howard Pellatt has an old book about this. I was pleased to read more about my family history through this page. Hopefully someday I might get the chance to visit. Thanks
Posted April 27, 2011
My great uncle was Herbert Elgie, mentioned in the plaque as the builder of the stables at Casa Loma. I'm wondering if in any research, anyone learned any details of his life, connection with the owners, etc. My understanding is that he was also the builder of many churches in Toronto. Thank you for any info you can pass along or anywhere I might find information on him.
Thanks! Fred Joblin firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted March 4, 2009
I am doing casa loma for my historica. good job with the website by the way and way thx bye
Note: If you wish to ask me a question, please use the email link in the menu.
Note: Comments are moderated. Yours will appear on this page within 24 hours
(usually much sooner).
Note: As soon as the comment is posted, a link to it will appear on the home page in the section "Here are the 10 latest plaque pages with a new comment added by a visitor to this site."