Henry Pellatt and Mary Dodgson were married in 1882. A year later Henry founded the Toronto Electric Light Company setting in motion the accumulation and control of the extensive financial empire he headed. He invested considerably in the Canadian Pacific Railroad and the North West Land Company during that period when Canada welcomed immigrants from Europe seeking new beginnings in a new country. The expression of the urge "Go West Young Man" abetted the creation of Henry Pellatt's vast fortune as he profited from both migrant and material transportation to Western Canada. He also reaped a fortune from the sale of lands in Western Canada. He was knighted in 1905.
Henry named a forty acre lake in King Township, on which his summer home was located, after his wife Mary. Today, the property is the impressive Marylake Shrine located on the northwest corner of Keele Street and Bloomington Road, (Side Road #15).
From 1911 to 1914 Sir Henry Pellatt supervised the construction of Casa Loma. It was the dream of his youth and his gift to his wife Mary. Portions of Casa Loma are modeled after Windsor Castle, Berkshire, England. The cost of construction and furnishings exceeded five million dollars, a vast fortune by any standard in
During this period both Henry and Mary were the "Toast of Toronto" entertaining the top hat of society from all corners of the world. The Toronto social elite sought inclusion in their circle and invitation to their fabulous residence. The dining room could seat one hundred guests. Forty servants and maintenance personnel were responsible for providing the lavish life style the Pellatts had acquired.
Almost a century since its creation, Casa Loma still is the most pompous residential structure in Ontario. It has ninety-eight magnificent rooms, thirty bathrooms, twenty-five fireplaces, a sixty foot length indoor swimming pool, three bowling alleys and an underground passage connecting the castle to the
mammoth stables across the street. The pipe organ cost $75,000.00. The library housed ten thousand books.
The grounds are manicured with magnificent
gardens and large cavorting water fountains.
The first electric elevator in a Toronto home was installed in Casa Loma (Castle on the Hill) specifically for Lady Mary who often required the use of a wheelchair during her adult life. From the moment of entry into the massive grand hall, everything about Casa Loma challenges the imagination. Unfortunately, little has been
recorded about the two astonishing people who called Casa Loma their home for less than ten years.
Henry financed construction of the castle from monies he received from the sale of the Toronto Electric Light Company in 1911. Alas, when the First Great War ended, disaster began for the Pellatts. Henry's investments gradually soured. He was on the road to insolvency.
In 1923, Henry surrendered possession of his citadel to the Home Bank for debts owing. Henry and Mary were forced to vacate their fabulous home taking with them only three truckloads of personal belongings. The dream was over. Paradise was lost.
Mary died at the age of 67, less than a year after she and Henry quit the castle. Strain and humiliation probably contributed to her demise. One can imagine the indignation and humiliation experienced by Henry and Mary when the castle's furnishings, originally costing one and a half million dollars, were auctioned and sold by bailiffs over a five day period, June 23-27, 1924, for a fraction of their value...$150,000.00.
After Mary's death, Henry retired to his summer residence in King City, an exclusive community north of Toronto. Three years later, March 1927, he married Catherine Welland Merritt. William Hamilton Merritt, Catherine's grandfather, one of the original builders of the Welland Canal, named his daughter Welland. Less than thirty months after their marriage, December 1929, Catherine succumbed to cancer. Henry was again alone.
There was a failed attempt to convert Casa Loma to a hotel in 1929. The City of Toronto assumed ownership of the property in 1933 for $27,305.45 which was the amount of taxes in arrears.
The economic recession of the 1930s took its final toll on what was left of Henry's financial empire. Isolation, destitution and depression took control of his life. In his final year he lived in the modest home of his former chauffeur, Tomas Ridgeway, at 28 Queen's Avenue, Etobicoke, West Toronto. He spent most of his time sleeping and sobbing in a rocking chair in front of a
fireplace in the living rooming of the house. He was eighty when he died on March 8, 1939. At the time of his death his net assets amounted to $185.00.
Henry's funeral service was held inside the Toronto Armories, which was then located on University Avenue. It was the largest funeral in Toronto's history. Three hundred and fifty soldiers of the Queen's Own Rifles slowly led the funeral procession along King Street to Richmond Street and University Avenue; from there a hearse carried Henry on his final journey to Forest Lawn Mausoleum in North Toronto.
The Forest Lawn Mausoleum is located on the west side of Yonge Street just south of Sheppard Avenue. It may be the most exclusive cemetery in Ontario. With full military honors, Henry's body was encrypted in a vault directly below the tomb of his first wife Mary. The burial room is impressive and is shared with another deceased couple named Hyland.
Henry guaranteed himself a reservation in this exclusive mausoleum when he was at the height of his power and a director of the International Mausoleum Company, the predecessor of Park Lawn Company Limited, which today administers the mausoleum. The grounds
and buildings are a setting of serenity and dignity, which seem to afford privilege to the lifeless occupants within. One is reminded of the immortal words of Thomas Gray's Elegy while visiting this sacred place.
"The boast of Heraldry, the pomp of Pow'r,
And all that Beauty, all that Wealth e'er gave,
Await alike th' inevitable hour,
The paths of Glory lead but to the grave."
A photograph of Sir Henry straddling a horse is positioned on a marble mantle extending from the bottom of his tomb. At the bottom right corner is a small photograph of a young boy who is approximately ten years old. None of the people at the mausoleum know the identity of the boy. The caretakers observe that the glass encasement, which contains the photograph, has
been regularly polished over the years and replaced in the center of the mantle.
We can only speculate as to the identity of the person who pays homage to Henry and Mary. Judging from the boy's hairstyle and texture of the photograph, one would guess it was taken in the late nineteen sixties or early seventies.
Henry and Mary's only child Reginald was born in 1885. Reginald did marry but there is no record of children from the marriage.
Casa Loma is at 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, M5R 1X8. The telephone number is (416) 923-1171. Austin Terrace is the first street north of Davenport Road on Spadina Road. On the Spadina University subway line, get off at Dupont Station and walk north two blocks to an open stairway called the Baldwin Steps. Incidentally, when you have reached the bottom of the stairway you're standing at the point of the shoreline of Lake Ontario fifteen thousand years ago. Climb to the top and the castle is to your left.
When you enter the grand hall at Casa Loma, let your imagination reach back in time. Pretend you are a guest of Sir Henry and Lady Mary Pellatt during the brief epoch of their financial and social supremacy. Pretend that Mary and Henry greet you as you enter the grand hall with the words "Welcome to our home." Then thank this amazing couple for contributing so much to our wonderful heritage in a wonderful city.
Like all endeavors in life, it's better to have tried, regardless of ultimate success or failure, than not to have tried at all. Henry and Mary dared to reach to the heavens in their search for paradise. May they rest in peace.
Henry visited the castle one last time a year before his death. The portrait of Henry was painted at the time he built Casa Loma and is still on display.
the early twentieth century.
In 1937, the Toronto Kiwanis Clubs leased Casa Loma from the City of Toronto; they successfully manage it as an historic tourist attraction welcoming all who visit this