Casa Loma

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The striking silhouette of Casa Loma castle for which the neighbourhood is named, provides a romantic backdrop to this affluent Toronto neighbourhood.

Nestled on the brow of the Avenue Road Hill, it is one of the city’s finest gems. Surrounded by ravine, parkland and features breathtaking 200-year old trees, this residential enclave looks and feels more like an enchanted forest filled with storybook homes, than the big city neighbourhood it really is.

It is bounded on the north by St. Clair Avenue West, on the east by Spadina Road, on the south by the CP railway tracks, and on the west by Bathurst Street

The celebrated castle, Casa Loma was constructed in the early 1900s for over three million dollars and was given to the city by its heavily debt-laden owner, Sir Henry Pellatt only a decade after it was put up. The prominence of the castle led to a huge boom in the area, with many wealthy residents setting up shop and defining the present neighbourhood.

This exclusive neighbourhood isn’t bisected by any major commercial streets but only surrounded by St. Clair Avenue and Bathurst Street. You won’t see many cars here amid the Casa Loma area’s many cul-de-sacs. The neighbourhood’s borders remain very quiet and peaceful despite their proximity to the bustling downtown. It’s a popular destination for many joggers and runners from near and far, who head for the streets leading up to the Casa Loma stairs and continue making their way to Sir Winston Churchill Park.

History

historyThe history of the Casa Loma area is closely tied to the magnificent castle for which it’s named. The breathtaking masterpiece which is a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture was built  thanks to the lifelong passion of Sir Henry Pellat, who decided to build a castle of his own as a regal landmark that would remind him of his homeland. A prominent Canadian financier, industrialist, and military figure, Sir Henry thought that he had enough money to fund the construction, which took almost three years to finish and which cost him a staggering $3.5 million and this was all back in 1911! The outrageous costs that he had to pay and his inability to pay taxes on the project all combined with the financial crisis after World War II, contributed to Sir Henry’s downfall.

In 1933, Sir Henry was forced to cede his private castle to the City of Toronto. There was a lot of discussion about how to use the castle that followed the exchange. The Kiwanis Club of West Toronto came up with the idea of keeping the castle open as a tourist attraction, and so starting in 1937, the property was opened to the public as a heritage museum. This turned out to be a brilliant step, considering that the former plan of opening a high school in the castle would certainly not have brought Casa Loma as much fame and fortune as it receives today. The original castle grounds were subdivided, and new homes were built around the castle. The highly sought-after addresses of today’s Austin Terrace, Warren Road, Popular Plains, and Russel Hill all once belonged to the castle grounds, and they now feature some of the most beautiful residences in Toronto.

Architecture

architectureThe natural beauty afforded by the escarpment, which was forested until development began in the early 1900’s, made it a popular location for a diverse range of mansions along Spadina which date from approximately 1890 to 1920. Most of Casa Loma’s homes were built between 1905 and 1940, and the housing stock includes a mix of large Tudor, Georgian, Edwardian and English Cottage style homes as well as some recent luxury condo high rises along Avenue Road and townhomes on Spadina.

The houses on the south side of Lyndhurst Court enjoy a spectacular view of Toronto’s skyline and Lake Ontario.  Many homes in this neighbourhood back onto the Nordheimer ravine, a virtual forest of mature oak and maple trees.  Austin Terrace, Warren Road, Popular Plains and Russell Hill, all streets to emerge when the lands attached to the castle were subdivided display some of the most impressive homes in the city. Long, winding drives shield some homes from curious eyes, pristine landscaping is common. The views from the southern end of the neighbourhood make it a perfect place for strolling.

Shopping

The closest shopping for Casa Loma residents is the Bathurst and St. Clair shopping district. These are mostly convenience type stores that cater to everyday household needs.

Gourmet food shops, high end boutiques, and all kinds of professional services are available on Spadina Road, north of St. Clair in the heart of Forest Hill Village.

Parks and Recreation

Nordheimer Ravine a peaceful gem of a valley winds its way through the Casa Loma neighbourhood. This park provides a quiet green oasis for people to walk their dogs, go for a jog or go for a leisurely stroll under the oaks and maples. You will find many great picnic spots along the rustic footpath which is ideal for lovely walks or a family day out within the city.

Winston Churchill Park, located at the southeast corner of Spadina Road and St. Clair Avenue, is a regular sporting route for many locals. The gravel paths along the park  are always full of joggers working their way through the three kilometres of soft running track. The three sets of stairs here are a true test of one’s fitness. Start with a little cardio, taking the stairs when you enter the park just off Spadina Road. There is lots of green field space for running drills, group sports, or mat exercises for groups coming for an outdoor lesson. The park also has ten floodlit tennis courts.  This park is a perfect little piece of woodland paradise near your home.

Wells Hill Park is located just off the busy St. Clair Avenue and is well equipped with picnic tables and benches providing the perfect place for enjoying a day out. There is also a small playground for kids, a wading pool, a water fountain, and bathrooms.  Even better, the park is dog-friendly.  Across the street from this park are the Wells Hill Lawn Bowling Club and the Wychwood Public Library.

The local community centre operates out of Hillcrest School and includes an indoor pool and a gymnasium.

Schools

The community is served by six elementary schools, three public high schools, three private schools, and a public library. De La Salle College is nearby on Avenue Road.  The Hillcrest Jr. School is a very popular school for young children. Many parents living in the north end of The Annex and the surrounding areas decide to send their children to this school because of its outstanding reputation.

Hillcrest Jr. School 44 Hilton Avenue, (416) 393-9700
Oakwood Collegiate Institute 991 St. Clair Avenue West, (416) 393-1780
George Brown College Casa Loma Campus, 160 Kendal Avenue (416) 415-4532
St. Michaels College 1515 Bathurst Street (416) 653-3180
Waldorf Academy 250 Madison Avenue (416) 962-6447

Transportation

The Casa Loma neighbourhood is well served by public transit. There is regular bus service on Bathurst Street and streetcar service on St. Clair Avenue West. The St. Clair West subway station is a short walk from the homes in this neighbourhood.

For motorists, the main arterial roadways are Bathurst Street and St.Clair Avenue and just a short drive to the financial and commercial districts of downtown.  These roads all connect to the major highways too with a twenty minute drive.

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