Keeping Up With the Joneses (I mean, the Austins)

What if your next door neighbor owned one of the grandest houses in town?

 

Image

 

Image

This house is referred to today as the “Spadina Museum” or the “Spadina House.” It sits at the top of the “Baldwin Steps”, referring to Robert Baldwin, the first person who owned the property. Here’s the strange part: all of Toronto below the top of the Baldwin Steps used to be underwater! The top of the stairs was the steepest part of the old bluffs of now-disappeared Lake Iroquois.

 

Here are the Baldwin Steps today, as seen from Spadina Road:

Image

Near to the top, beautiful scenes await.

Image

Image

View from the top:

Image

But back to the Austins and the grand house next door.

The Spadina House was built in 1886 by James Austin. Three generations of the Austin family lived in the house from 1886 until 1982. It was, and is still today, one of the grandest houses in Toronto.

The gardens and grounds aren’t too shabby either.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

 

Image

 

Image

Image

Image

If that was your neighbor’s grand house, garden, and grounds….how could you possibly top that?!

How ????

By building THIS!!!!!

Image

Yes, CASA LOMA – unequivocally the grandest and most impressive house in Toronto –  is the house NEXT DOOR!

This is the view of Casa Loma from the shared walkway (at the top of the Baldwin Steps) running between the two houses:

Image

Image

Casa Loma was built by Sir Henry Pellatt in 1911.

He lived there with his wife, Lady Pellatt, until 1924 when they fell on hard times financially and moved away.

Image

Both houses are now museums open to the public. I visited Casa Loma several years ago and was struck by the ugliness of the interior decorating. It seems that someone took it upon themselves to redecorate Casa Loma in floral 1980s curtains and fabrics. I also distinctly remember the slightly nauseating smell of none-too-appetizing sausages wafting through the house. There was some sort of sausage food stand in the basement whose stench was unfortunately permeating the entire basement and first floor.

I haven’t visited the interior of Spadina House yet, so I can’t compare it to Casa Loma’s interior.  What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and visit either of the houses during one of the grand old parties of the 1920s, when both houses were in their heyday!

HOWEVER….. I AM getting a chance to go back in time – figuratively, if not literally, for a 1920s GATSBY GARDEN PARTY this Sunday at the Spadina House ! ! ! I am so excited ! !  1920s live music, food, games, costume contest, etc ! ! I will be in heaven for the afternoon! 🙂

I have a feeling that I will prefer Spadina House to Casa Loma, as I have heard that Spadina House has recently been redecorated to reflect the 1920s and 1930s (as opposed to the garish 1980s decor in Casa Loma). Additionally, a castle isn’t always better than a villa or a mansion. In my opinion, charm and style outweigh conspicuousness and pomposity….(and questionable interior decorating).

I wonder if any members of the Austin family and Sir Henry Pellatt ever argued about the merits of the phrase “bigger is better?”

Stay tuned!

Sources:

Baldwin Steps:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldwin_Steps

Spadina Museum/House:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spadina_House

http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=919d2271635af310VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

Casa Loma:

http://www.casaloma.org/about.history.gk

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_Loma

 

 

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Keeping Up With the Joneses (I mean, the Austins)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s