Our Casa Loma tour in Toronto was nothing short of an experience. The one that brimmed with stories of joy, sorrow, and tragedy.
Casa Loma is a Gothic Revival style mansion, now a historic house museum. It was Sir Henry Mill Pellatt’s early 20th century chateau, the biggest private residence ever constructed in Canada, sitting at an elevation of 460 ft above sea level.
Pellatt brought hydro-electricity to Ontario, and through which he made his fortune. His was the first company that harnessed the generating power of Niagara Falls; the electricity that powered the province. He became Commanding Officer of The Queen’s Own Rifles, and his leadership of this regiment earned him a knighthood.
But legislators launched a campaign proclaiming hydro power should be as free as air, and they took his electric company from him through a legislative process.
His empire was rapidly disintegrating with heavy debts to the bank, and his money tied up in real estate developments stalled due to the Great Depression. He was unceremoniously forced out of his 98-room palace with just three van loads of belongings. Later, he auctioned off his luxury items to cover his debts.
Lady Mary Pellatt died of a heart attack in April 1924. The City of Toronto seized Casa Loma for backed taxes. Pellatt died in 1939.
The dining rooms
The baths of the castle times. These are two of the thirty.
My legs shivered. I feared that the glass would break.
But a note that was written on the wall in bold letters THIS GLASS FLOOR CAN WITHSTAND THE WEIGHT OF 14 LARGE HIPPOS redbulled my limbs. A dozen-plus hippos might not be heavy after all, and tragedy could happen – went the thought in my head. My moist palms.
It was sunny that morning, but Toronto trembled in the December chill. The observation deck of CN Tower with this straight down view could terrify even those without acrophobia. The glass floor was 1,122 feet above the ground.
I walked baby steps, but some children ran the length of the floor. I stepped on to a side, and squatted, placing my hand on the glass. My sweaty palm left cold trails on the glass.
You are safe: 256 square feet of solid glass – five times stronger than the standard required weight – should be the only thought in your head.
I captured this imageof the Spirit House, which was a hall of intrigue with myriad story possibilities, at Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.
Daniel Libeskind, the architect of the Freedom Tower in New York City, designed Lee-Chin Crystal; also designing some of the chairs in the Spirit House.
The stainless steel chairs synced well with the crystalline surrounding. From the center of the house, one could see in the arch above an interwoven pattern of concrete, which linked exhibit spaces with elevators, speaking of conflicts in stories.
This nighttime picture of Balzac’s, which is a sought-after coffeehouse in the Distillery District in Toronto, shows faded brick walls, a stylish chandelier, high ceilings, and a lit window. But what transpires below on the first level among a crowd of people, who’re chin-wagging and tittle-tattling while sipping the in-house roasted coffee, may be hard like the brick, classy like the chandelier, empty like the ceiling, and bright like the window.
You, a bitter reflection of your past acts, now realize how your egotism scared your friends away; how you were unsurprisingly certain that one day, you’d sit here to sip alone with no one to talk to. The lonely you glances up, hoping that someday things might change.