Canada 2017: Toronto—Day 2

Toronto skyline taken from Casa Loma castle, the Norman Tower.

On my fun agenda for our Toronto visit was art and architecture. As for David, he wanted to visit Casa Loma, a ninety-eight-room estate in the middle of the city that bankrupted Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, a Canadian soldier and financier who founded the Toronto Electric Light Company in 1883.

Architecturally, the home and grounds are grand, and the view, especially of the Toronto skyline, is impressive, even on an overcast day. Today the castle is owned by the city and is a tourist attraction. Although much of what Pellatt had owned has been sold, the ten-thousand-book library has remained intact, and that’s what I wanted to see.

But what intrigued us both was the military secret in Casa Loma’s stables. The following text is from the free Toronto in Time app, which was created by The Canadian Encyclopedia. The article, “Castle Stable Hides Military Secret,” is by Dennis Smith.

If Sir Henry Pellatt’s famous Casa Loma’s human accommodations show how luxurious the life of the wealthy can be, its stables show that horses could also live the gilded life. Its stalls are of solid Spanish mahogany, and its floors are paved with Spanish tiles in a herringbone pattern to prevent hooves from slipping. Each horse had its name in gold leaf at the head of its stall. But during the Second World War these lush equine digs hid a secret operation vital to the Allied war effort.

During the war, German U-boats terrorized the shipping lanes between North America and Britain. British scientists met the crisis by developing the ASDIC device, predecessor of today’s sonar, to help ships locate and attack the U-boats. But when German planes bombed the British plant making the device, a new location for developing the technology had to be found.

Casa Loma Stables, Exterior, 1915—The Ontario Gardeners Association at Casa Loma Stables, circa 1915 (courtesy City of Toronto Archives).

A Canadian engineer [William Corman] was put in charge of finding a new, secret location. He hit on the Casa Loma stables, whose tunnel connected them to the castle itself. “Who would suspect a freak castle with dances every Saturday night?”

The secret was safe. Even Toronto city councillors did not know of the wartime project until a decade later, long after the Casa Loma stables had done their part to help the Allied victory. Read more about Camp X. http://www.camp-x.com/historyofcampx.html

While David wandered the grounds, I climbed to the Norman Tower, one of two towers on the third floor of Casa Loma, to snap pictures of the Toronto skyline. During our visit, the stables and castle tunnels had been decorated for Halloween and weren’t part of our self-guided tour.

For dinner, we had an invite to dine with my editor, Caroline Kaiser—a delicious home-cooked meal, great company, and an enjoyable evening.

Yes, Toronto will be a setting in a future Darcy McClain and Bullet thriller.

September 20, 2018—Canada 2015: Toronto—Day 3.

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