Update: January 2009
We were pleasantly surprised to hear from the curator of Casa Loma in January 2009 with the following amendmennts:
1. Sir Henry and Lady Mary Pellatt did live in Casa Loma- they moved in in the winter of 1913 and moved out to Mary Lake, their country home in King Township, in 1923. During this period, they also had a large apartment in town (as one of your contributors notes).
2. The Pellatt's did not get into debt building Casa Loma. Three things conspired to cause Pellatt's financial difficulties- firstly, there was a depression after the end of WW1, and most of Pellatt's money was tied up in real estate (nobody was buying at this time). Secondly, the Home Bank of Canada, which had bankrolled much of Pellatt's business ventures declared bankruptcy in the early 1920's- this put additional financial strain on Pellatt. Lastly, in 1920, the City of Toronto decided to raise property taxes- the Estate went from having taxes of $600 per annum, to $1,000 per month- a huge sum in 1920. Pellatt decided to leave this property in 1923 (but was still quite well off) and tried to operate the house as a luxury apartment hotel. The Casa Loma Hotel operated between c.1927-29 after which time it failed. The house then sat vacant and was turned over to the City by Pellatt for non-payment of property taxes in 1934.
3. The tunnels were constructed for Pellatt not because he didn't like others to see his horses (in fact, Pellatt was the opposite- he loved to showcase them and often arranged for groups to see the horses being put through their paces on the Estate), but to unite his buildings.
When Pellatt purchased the land on which his Estate was constructed, Austin Terrace already bisected the property. Shortly thereafter, he petitioned the City to close the road, and to link the upper and lower portions of Spadina Road by constructing a new road through the parkette to the east of the Estate (between Casa Loma and Spadina). City Council rejected his petition, citing the objection of one anonymous neighbour. I suspect that the objection came from Albert Austin (or his family) who lived in Spadina and did not want a road built right outside their garden wall. Regardless, Pellatt then had the tunnel constructed to unite his property- it connects the Stables, Garage, Hunting Lodge and Greenhouses to the main building, Casa Loma.
Whoever wrote that Pellatt used the tunnels to move his horses around the Estate probably never visited the site, for they would have seen that the only way to the tunnel from the Stables is down a number of narrow flights of wooden and concrete stairs (even a small horse could not navigate these stairs). If he did succeeded in getting his large driving and saddle horses through the narrow (and low) tunnels, how did he get the horses out into the fresh air again? Up the big flight of stairs into the house and then out the front door?
Contrary to what is recorded on your site, many Casa Loma staff do believe that there is substantial 'activity' here.
Joan E. Crosbie
Our thanks go out to Joan for these amendments, and we will be following up on this in the very near future.