Many of the rooms were left unfinished, and today serve as the Regimental Museum for The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. Pellatt joined the Regiment as a Rifleman and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the Commanding Officer. He was knighted for his dedication to the Regiment. Later, Pellatt served as the Honorary Colonel and was promoted to Major-General upon his very grand retirement in Pasadena California.
Sir Henry was able to enjoy life in the castle for ten years, leaving in 1923. Vacant while proposals were considered for its future use, architect William Sparling put forward a proposal to convert the house to a luxury hotel in 1925. A long term lease was granted to Sparling to open a hotel within Casa Loma. He began completing the Great Hall and the Billiard Room, areas that Sir Henry had never finished. Sparling planned to add two large wings to the main building, one to the east and to the west, each wing containing 96 full suites and 56 rooms. At an estimated cost of $1 million for each wing, they were never built. The hotel failed in 1929.
During the late 1920s Casa Loma was also a popular nightspot. The Orange Blossoms, later known as Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, played there for eight months in 1927–1928. Shortly thereafter, they went on tour of North America and became a major Swing Era dance band.
During the Depression, Toronto increased Casa Loma's annual property taxes from $600 to $12,000 (this approximately translates to an increase from $6000 to $111,000 in today's currency), and Pellatt—already experiencing financial difficulties—was forced to auction off $1.5-million in art and furnishings for $250,000 during bankruptcy hearings. In 1933 the city seized Casa Loma for back taxes owed, which totaled approximately $3000. Rather than file for bankruptcy and lose his knight hood, which Pellatt cherished, he was forced to sell Casa Loma for well below market value at $27,303.
Contrary to popular belief, Casa Loma has never been an official residence of either the city or the Province of Ontario. In 1937 it was opened to the public for the first time as a tourist attraction operated by the Kiwanis Club of Toronto. Coincidentally, this is the same year that Chorley Park, the Government House of Ontario was closed by the provincial government.
During World War II, Casa Loma was used to conceal research on sonar, and for construction of sonar devices for U-boat detection. The chateau is still operated by the Kiwanis Club. Today it is one of Toronto's most popular tourist attractions.
Even as a young man, Henry Pellatt embraced the spirit of the family motto "Devant Si Je Puis" - "Foremost if I can." When he met his bride-to-be, Sir Henry had already achieved local renown in 1879 for beating the U. S. amateur champion in the running of the mile. Travels in Europe gave him the love for fine art and architecture which would spur his vision of Casa Loma, his "house on the hill." This romantic side was uniquely juxtaposed by his other lifelong passion: his involvement with the military, specifically the Queen's Own Rifles.
In 1892 his father retired, enabling Sir Henry to invest with more risk. Despite vigorous discouragement from his friends he purchased stock in the Canadian Pacific Railway and in the North West Land Company. As with steam-generated electricity, his intuition was right on target. A liberal immigration policy led to opening of the Canadian west which led to healthy profits from his investments in both the Canadian Pacific Railway and in the North West Land Company.
By 1901, Sir Henry was chairman of 21 companies with interests in mining, insurance, land and electricity. In 1902, he and his partners won the rights to build the first Canadian hydro-generating plant at Niagara Falls. He was knighted in 1905 for his military service with the Queen's Own Rifles.
Pellatt's Midas touch continued through most of his business life. In 1911, armed with a fortune of $17 million, Pellatt drew up plans to build his dream castle with Canadian architect E. J. Lennox. The land on which he planned to build had been given a name by its previous owner: "house on the hill" or Casa Loma.
Sir Henry's numerous business and military connections demanded entertaining on a large scale. Casa Loma's romantic borrowing from the past, tempered by necessary modern day conveniences, provided the perfect setting. In the height of their years at the Castle, the planning of such a busy social calendar consumed much of Lady Pellatt's time.
In addition to hosting grand social events, the Pellatts were involved in a number of philanthropic projects. Sir Henry was a trustee and benefactor of Trinity College and a strong supporter of Grace Hospital. The organization of the St. John's Ambulance Brigade in Canada is due largely to his efforts. Lady Pellatt, in spite of her frequent confinement to a wheelchair, played an active role in the promotion of Girl Guides in Canada. She was appointed the first Commissioner of the Girl Guides of Canada and in 1919 was honoured with the Girl Guides' highest award, the Silver Fish.
However, in this case his entrepreneurial sense did not take into account the effects of World War I; during the war Canadians put their money into war bonds, not homes. After the war the economy slumped, tilting Pellatt and Pellatt into bankruptcy. The company owed the Home Bank of Canada $1.7 million - or in today's terms $20 million. With his stock worthless and his business debts out of control, Sir Henry was faced with a heartbreaking decision - a decision which he would always claim was made for him by the City's immovable tax assessors. Faced with an extraordinary tax bill, Sir Henry had no choice but to auction off his prized possessions for a fraction of their worth and to abandon his dream of a noble castle.
The Pellatts moved to their farm in King township in 1924. Lady Pellatt, weakened by the strain of the move and the financial difficulties, passed away later that year at the age of sixty-seven.
Though he lost a great fortune, Sir Henry never lost his spirit of philanthropy, a character trait for which he was honoured late in life. His service of fifty years with the Queen's Own Rifles was celebrated on June 27, 1926 with a march past of 500 men complete with the circling overhead of three military planes. When Henry died on March 8, 1939, thousands lined Toronto streets to witness his funeral procession. He was buried with full military honours befitting an old soldier who had given so much to his country.
William Sparling was granted a long-term lease, and began the process of completing the Great Hall and the Billiard Room, areas that Sir Henry had never himself finished. He also had plans to add two large wings to the east and west sections of the main building that would each contain 96 full suites and 56 rooms. These wings, costing approximately $1 million, were never built. A New York syndicate offered to purchase the Castle in 1928, but the deal was never completed and the hotel failed in 1929.
During the late 1920s, Casa Loma was also a popular nightspot. The Orange Blossoms, later known as Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, were booked to play for eight months at Casa Loma in 1927 - 28. Shortly thereafter, they went on tour of North America with their big band sound.
With the onset of the Depression, Casa Loma sat vacant until 1933, when the City took the property for $ 27,303.45 in back taxes. Suggestions for possible uses of the building included a high school, a museum, an art gallery, a war veteran's convalescence home and later, a permanent residence for the Dionne quintuplets. None of the projects proved feasible and the City considered demolishing the castle. In 1936, The Kiwanis Club of West Toronto proposed that they operate the Castle as a tourist attraction. The City of Toronto agreed and in 1937 Casa Loma opened to the public after extensive refurbishment by The Kiwanis Club.
Sir Henry enjoyed Casa Loma for less than ten years before financial misfortune forced him to abandon his castle home. Today this unique piece of Canadian history is open daily as a tourist attraction and hospitality venue. Casa Loma is owned by the City of Toronto and has been developed and operated by the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma since 1937. Casa Loma is financially self-sufficient and contributes close to $1 million annually to the City in licence fees and taxes. Net proceeds from the operation of Casa Loma support a wide range of the Kiwanis Club's charitable works.
Under the careful stewardship of the Club and its professional staff, the Castle remains one of Toronto's top ten tourist attractions and hospitality venues. In 1998, 375,000 visitors toured the Castle and gardens. A perfect backdrop for special occasions, the castle played host to over 200 functions with almost 30,000 guests attending during the year. Casa Loma's unique architecture has also made it a highly desirable location for film, television and photography shoots.
The tour of the castle is self-guided. Visitors can experience the castle at their leisure with the aid of an audio cassette and floor plan brochure. Casa Loma provides audio cassettes and tour brochures in the following eight languages: English, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, Italian and Spanish.
The enchanting Casa Loma Gardens are open May through October and provide visitors with an opportunity to stroll through five acres of formal and informal specialty areas alive with colour and fragrance.
Casa Loma has five acres of gardens. An underground tunnel connects Casa Loma to The Stables (Garage, Potting Shed, Stalls, Carriage Room and Tack Rooms).
The 800' tunnel runs below the ground and connects the stables to the castle.
Lady Pellatt frequently invited the Girl Guides to her home. Their first visit was in 1913 when 250 girls and their leaders toured the conservatories, the stables, climbed the circular staircase to the top turret and then were served tea in the Palm Room. In March 1914, Lady Pellatt watched the Guides annual fête from her bedroom window as she was too ill to leave her room. Rallies became an annual event at the house. Guides also skated on the house's curling rink in winter.