Toronto Tourist Attractions: Casa Loma
When you visit Toronto, you must see Casa Loma - the only medieval-style castle in North America. Casa Loma was built between 1911 and 1915 by the entrepreneur Sir Henry Pellatt. Sir Henry was fascinated with art, castles, and architecture from the medieval times in Europe. Located in the area of Spadina Avenue and Dupont Street in downtown Toronto, Casa Loma is a must-see attraction.
Casa Loma really is a full-fledged castle, including tunnels, gardens, and secret passages. Some say that the ghosts of Sir Henry and his wife Lady Mary still roam the interior of it. There are 98 rooms inside and it is recorded that there were once 59 telephones inside. In fact there were some very advanced technical features inside the castle such as a central vacuuming system, extremely large ovens, and electrical power throughout each room. There was also a central switchboard, with a switchboard operator, to manage all 59 telephones.
Casa Loma means in Spanish House on the hill. It is also known as a grand financial blunder. The castle in Toronto was based on Sir Henrys own artistic sketches. The famous architect E. J. Lennox took the sketches and created a plan to build from. It is reported to have cost Sir Henry ,500,000 and 300 men to build. Sir Henry was only allowed to live in it for 10 years. World War I broke out shortly after they moved in and hard economic times hit the family. Sir Henrys family moved into the castle before construction was completed, and then construction stopped altogether when the war broke out. The costs to maintain a staff for upkeep of the castle and grounds, an accumulating property tax debt and also perhaps because Lady Pellatt passed away in 1923, all caused Sir Henry to abandon his dream castle.
Casa Loma is rich in history even after World War I. There was a great threat to North America in World War II due to German U-Boats roaming the North Atlantic Ocean. It was noted that some U-Boats were actually watching cities in mainland North America and U-Boats were also sinking ships from North American in the North Atlantic Ocean. To detect the U-Boats, a predecessor to the modern-day sonar device was manufactured in Britain. These devices were crucial to detecting the enemy. When the plant that assembled these devices was bombed by the Germans in Britain, the operation was moved by a Canadian engineer to Casa Loma so manufacturing of the device could continue undetected by the Germans. Casa Loma was a place where they had dances on the weekends and the idea is that no German spy would ever suspect it. In fact the operation was so secret that the Toronto City Counselors were not even aware of it until 10 years later.
Casa Loma is open during the day and offers audiocassettes for self-guided tours. In the months of May through October the gardens around this castle are very beautiful and one can casually stroll through them. The gardens cover five acres and are beautiful with all of their colors especially when accented by the seasonal changes.
So make Casa Loma a top priority on your Toronto vacation. It is truly a unique and inspiring place to visit.
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