Friday, Casa Loma

We ate at some breakfast place with “golden” in the name.  It wasn’t that good.  I ordered a berry crepe because the fruit sounded good.  First, the waitress came back with pancakes.  Not cool. It seems like the older I get, the more lead-like pancakes get.  Hell if I was going to eat those right before hiking in and around Casa Loma.  So then I got the crepes, which featured disappointingly mushy fruit.  Gross.  I ate what I could and we agreed to never go back.

We dog-legged it up to Casa Loma, going College to Bloor-Yonge to Spadina to Dupont.  Luckily, the trains are both very simple (there being only two lines running through the area we were in) and very frequent (we never had to wait more than 5 minutes–often less–for the next train).  Many of the trains were your standard modular ones customized for easy transportation of the public, but the Spadina to Dupont one was…different.

Yeah.  We could see all the way down.

I snapped a quick picture before we had to get off, because the doors usually stayed open for the exact amount of time it took for the people wanting on and the people wanting off to switch places.  No room for stragglers or daydreamers on the Toronto subway.

We were paying attention, though, and disembarked in a timely manner.  The station and street we emerged onto looked a bit dodgy, but after we crossed under the train trestle it looked better.  We took the Baldwin steps up….

They seemed to be a  favorite with the area joggers.  A number of them passed us on the way up (we kept stopping to take pictures), and on the way back down, I saw a man doing some truly alarming leg warmup exercises at the foot of the stairs.

Casa Loma was built by “flamboyant entrepreneur” Sir Henry Pellatt in the early 1910’s.  He and his family only got to live in it, still unfinished (though Pellatt strikes me as the type who would never believe that his castle wouldn’t be improved with the addition of a few more rooms and maybe a couple extra horses or tropical plants), for about ten years before the yang caught up with his yin and he had to sell it off to the city of Toronto due to back taxes.

It looms!

Anyway, this 98-room extravaganza comes complete with a great hall, a library, greenhouse, tower, servants’ quarters, family suites, guest suites, a dining room, a study, secret passages connecting the study to the wine cellar and the second floor, a half-finished subterranean pool (the proposed design featured golden swans and skylights), and a tunnel connecting the main house to the stables and potting shed, because if you have to stock the greenhouse for your wife’s winter tea parties, you’re certainly not going to expose those plants to the harsh Canadian weather.

I think I've found where the bodies are buried.

They even had rooms down there for growing mushrooms and asparagus and other edibles that like the dark.  I mean, this guy really thought stuff through.

So.  Great hall:

Pellatt’s bedroom.  His wife had a suite all to herself.

Pellatt’s shower.  This was top o’ the line in 1914.  It has six spa-like side jets.  He needed a bath attendant to operate it, because the water temperature of each jet had to be tuned separately.

Ad for a similar device.  Also: only suited for the slimmest of flamboyant entrepreneurs.

Just looking at it makes my funny bone ache.

At one point we went into the wine cellar and saw the secret passageway to the study.  Took that up and found another one going to the second floor.  It’s around this point that we decided to explore the castle top-down.  Emerging onto the third floor hallway, we met a kid who’d just come down from the tower.  She told us that there’s a number of staircases, but it’s totally worth it.

Stairs

We emerged into the attic.  After a bit of a wander, we realized that the only room not being used for storage of electric fans was this one:

Click to enlarge

Some of the beams were kind of low, but I’m kind of short, so it worked out.  We went up a couple stairs, and….

More stairs. Difficulty level: upped.

It continues....

The end

Well, the end of the staircases.  I went up to the last level, but I don’t have any pictures because the windows were only a few inches across and it really wasn’t interesting.  I’m not sure why Pellatt felt the need for a tower with teeny windows, but I guess flamboyant entrepreneurs don’t need reasons.

View of the roof from the penultimate landing:

We went back down.

Third floor hallway

Conservatory

Though actually, my favorite thing about Casa Loma is the role it played in WWII.  The whole mansion’s amazing, yes, but this story is awesome.  So, it’s WWII and London’s getting blitzed.  This means a number of problematic things, but the one we’re focusing on here is that the ASDIC manufacturing plant is rendered out of commission.  ASDICs, by the way, were early sonar devices that the allies used to detect German u-boats.  They were kind of important.  By this time, the Kiwanis Club had acquired possession of Casa Loma from the city of Toronto.  Somehow, a deal was struck between the allies in charge of ASDIC manufacturing and a few high-ranking Club members, because the Casa Loma became the home of the ASDIC devices for the rest of he war.  As one placard informed us: “Security experts today would have shuddered had they seen the one dollar padlock which was all that stood between the public and the secret operations.  Stragglers from the Casa Loma tours were kept away from the carriage room by a polite sign which read ‘Construction in progress.  Sorry for the inconvenience'”.

Yes.  They manufactured a crucial u-boat detecting device in a tourist attraction, and managed to get away with it without informing any but the highest-ranking Kiwanis Club members.  They didn’t even tell any government officials what was going on.  I like to think that this only worked because it’s Canada.  Hitler spent his spare time playing which would you rather with US economic targets, but Canada?  Meh.  Nothing going on, there.

Good-bye, Casa Loma.

For the interchange at Spadina, we had to traverse a long pedestrian walkway:

I've no clue who that guy is, but he makes the photo more awesome.

Bottom right corner, you can see the guts of an escalator.  They were piled all over the station, for some reason.

After that, we went back to the hotel and killed the few hours before the con.

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