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History of Casa Loma
Though the castle itself is open year round, the enchanting Casa Loma Estate Gardens is only open from May through October each year. Its prestigious and famous reputation attracts individuals from all over the world. Notable events are hosted here almost every night, including the Symphony in the Gardens Concert Series; a perfect opportunity to stroll through the magical gardens, surrounding a piece of Canadian’s history, and take in the colours and fragrance.
In 1911, the un-daunting and romantic Sir Henry Pellatt was the business visionary behind this medieval castle on a hill overlooking Toronto, and engaged the noted architect E.J. Lennox to join him in sharing his vision. Casa Loma took three years and $3.5 million to build with the craftsmanship of 300 workers. Sir Henry Pellatt filled Casa Loma with artwork from Canada and around the world. It stood as a monument and exceeded any private estate home in North America. With soaring battlements and secret passageways, it embodies a sumptuous palace that rivals the French chateaus but with a Canadian twist. Sir Henry Pellatt took refuge in Casa Loma for less than ten years before the financial misfortune of World War I forced him to vacate his lifelong dream home in 1923. In the late 1920s, investors operated Casa Loma for a short time as a luxury hotel, and it became a popular nightspot for the wealthy. The Orange Blossoms, later known as Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, played there for eight months in 1927-1928. In 1937, it was leased by the Kiwanis Club of West Toronto, later the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma (KCCL), which began operating the castle as a tourist destination for 74 years. From 1997 until 2012, the castle underwent a 15-year, $33-million exterior restoration, largely funded by the city. A new board of trustees which included seven KCCL members and seven city appointees was created in 2008. In 2011, the city began seeking bids from the private sector in its search for new ownership due to KCCL operating shortfalls. In 2014, the Liberty Entertainment Group led by Nick Di Donato entered into a long-term lease and operating agreement with the City of Toronto for Casa Loma, promising to preserve and make improvements to the facility, enhance the special events and dining experience, and integrate new technology for school and cultural programming.
Today, Casa Loma remains one of Toronto’s top ten tourist attractions and hospitality venues. The unique architecture makes it a highly desirable location for film, television and photography shoots. The tour of the castle is self-guided, with the help of multimedia audio guides and tour brochures in eight languages: English, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, Italian and Spanish. There is a 22 minute documentary on Sir Henry Pellatt and Casa Loma included with admission.
Abstraction is said to be one of the greatest visionary tools that come so effortlessly to certain individuals. It gives them the ability to imagine, decipher, and depict the world. Sir Henry Pellatt was indeed one of these people with his extravagant ideas that were far ahead his time. His ambition to build a castle as his home seemed ridiculously fabulous, and because of this passion, he gave Toronto a famous tourist attraction, and Canada an estate of pride.
SYMPHONY IN THE GARDENS: AN EVENING WITH EDITH PIAF
With Casa Loma and the Toronto skyline as a backdrop, an Evening With Edith Piaf music concert was one of sophistication, where exceptional food, fine wine, evocative architecture and a captivating voice serenaded the audience. It was a night where guests could enjoy nostalgia for times past, from a unique performance by the Toronto Concert Orchestra. This special venue happened every Wednesday from June 18 to September 3, with a different tribute each week to showcase brilliant musicians such as Billie Holiday, Puccini, Wendy Carlos, Mozart and of course Edith Piaf, to name a few. With the endless kisses from a summer breeze and the soothing music to put you at ease, there was no denying Edith Piaf’s presence was felt and her music resonated within the renowned garden that wonderful Wednesday evening. Edith Piaf was one of the most celebrated vocalists of the modern pop era. Her own life story was just as remarkable as her musical legacy, as she remains an admired figure in popular culture, film, and music today. Though her life was brief, her fame was international. Piaf’s music was a combination of cabaret brightness, emotional soulful blues and animated pop, all infused into one voice. Among her songs are “La Vie en rose” (1946), “Non, je ne regrette rien” (1960), “Hymne à l’amour” (1949), “Milord” (1959), “La Foule” (1957), “l’Accordéoniste” (1955), and “Padam… Padam…” (1951). Films such as Saving Private Ryan, Inception, Bull Durham, La Haine, The Dreamers, Madagascar 3 and the Egyptian movie The Yacoubian Building all featured Piaf’s songs.