Saturday, 15 June 2013

Casa Loma - House on the hill


Story of the Casa Loma is a tragic one. This fairy-tale like mansion was never completed and its owner Sir Henry Pellat died penniless in the house of his former chauffeur in 1939. But let’s start from the very beginning. Henry Mill, son of the Scottish immigrants, was exceptional from the early age. During his educational years, he held the North American record for one mile run as an athlete. He enlisted as a Rifleman with the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada at the age of 18. Left his studies early to pursue commerce and by the age of 23, he was a full partner in his father's stock brokerage firm. As a financier and industrialist, he was visionary. He was among the pioneers to invest in hydro electricity and aviation in early 20th century. His company harnessed the power of Niagara Falls and brought electricity to Toronto. At one point, he was controlling nearly one-fourth of the Canadian economy. He was knighted for his military contributions and retired as a Major-General.

The Conservatory or Green house at ground level
The Nora Brodeur Garden
War Museum at first floor

Casa Loma, house on the hill, was his dream and a place fit for the residence of kings. But along the way, things started to go wrong. He lost money in some bad investments. His hydro-electric company was taken away by the Government on the pretext that electricity should be free to all like air and water (imagine that). His aircraft industry was also taken over as part of the war effort during the First World War. His financial difficulties left him nearly bankrupt and he was forced to leave his beloved residence which was still at an unfinished state. Henry died at the age of 80, but during his final years he was alone, miserable and poor.

The story of Sir Henry Pellat is heartbreaking, but he certainly left his mark and lived his life to the fullest. So here is my question to the reader of this blog. Given the choice, what would you select, a life like Henry with its meteoric rise and fall or a life of relative comfort and mediacy. Me? … I am still thinking.

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