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  • Casa Loma Casa Loma Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Casa Loma means hill house in Spanish, and now is a museum and landmark in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, constructed in the gothic revival style of architecture. It was built for financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, taking three years to finish, from 1911 to 1914, and designed by E. J. Lennox, who also designed many other city landmarks. During 1903, Henry bought 25 lots in Toronto, from developers Rolf and Kertland, then he commissioned Lennox to design the house, starting with the huge stables, potting shed and the hunting lodge, which would be located a few hundred feet from the main house. The hunting lodge itself was a 4,380 square foot house with servants quarters, and as soon as the stables complex were done, Henry sold his summer home in Scarborough to his son and moved into the hunting lodge. The main house cost around $3.5 million to build and used 300 workers to build the house in three years. It was most unfortunate that World War I started, because it stopped the construction work, which at 98 rooms, was the biggest private residence in the nation. Some of the important amenities inside included; three bowling alleys that were never finished, two secret passages in his ground floor office, an elevator, an oven big enough to cook an ox, central vacuum and two vertical passages for pipe organs. The majority of the third floor was unfinished and today is used for the Regimental Museum for the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada; which Pellatt had joined as a rifleman and rising up through the ranks, became a commanding officer. He was knighted for his devotion to the regiment and later served as an honorary Colonel and then when he retired was promoted to Major-General. After the war, the depression hit and the city increased the property's taxes from $600 a year to $1000 a month and Henry, who was going through the times himself had to auction of his $1.5 million in art and furnishings for just $250,000. He would only be able to live in the house for less than ten years, leaving in 1923. Later it became a luxury hotel and in the 1920s was a very popular nightclub. The Orange Blossoms, which later became Glenn Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra played at the club for 8 months in 1927 and 1928, then a short while afterwards went on tour in the continent, becoming a big swing era dance band. In 1933, the estate was seized for $27,303 in back taxes. It soon fell into disrepair and terribly run down, with the city calling for its demolishment, but then in 1937, the Kiwanis Club of Toronto leased it. Today it is called the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma and the mansion is undergoing a magnificent 15 year renovation project. It has never been an official residence of the city or province and opened in 1937 to the public as a tourist attraction by the Kiwanis Club. In WWII it was used to conceal research on sonar and also to construct sonar devices, called ASDIC, for U-boat detection. Presently it is one of the city's most popular attractions, and is still managed by the Kiwanis Club of Toronto.  On the main floor of the mansion are the great hall, oak room, library, billiards room, dining room, smoking room, the conservatory, Sir Henry's study, the serving room and Peacock Alley; on the second floor is the round room, Sir Henry's suite and bathroom, the spectacular oak panels in Henry's drawing room took artisans three years to carve!, the Windsor room, Lady Pellatt's suite and bathroom, the guest suite, and the girl guides exhibit. The third floor held the regimental museum, the Austin room, the Kiwanis room, servant's room, and garden room. In the basement the gift shop sits, which has the bowling alleys and shooting range, that were not finished, the gymnasium that was also not finished, as well as the pool which wasn't finished either, the wine cellar and the tunnel leading to the hunting lodge and stables. It is a beautiful home to say the least, and a monument to Sir Henry. 

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  • Royal Ontario MuseumRoyal Ontario Museum Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    The Royal Ontario Museum or the ROM is found in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is the biggest museum of world culture and natural history in the country, that opened in 1912, and is the fifth biggest museum in North American with over 6 million relics in more than 40 galleries. There are noteworthy collections of dinosaurs, Canadian history, Near Eastern and African art, European history and East Asian art. The museum houses the world's biggest collection of fossils from the Burgess Shale, containing over 150,000 specimens; and has hosted numerous traveling displays. This fantastic museum was started in 1857 as the Museum of Natural History and Fine Arts at the Toronto Normal School, but was opened in 1912 by the enactment of the Royal Ontario Museum Act. It was run by the University of Toronto until 1968, when it became independent, although it continues having a good relation with the university, sometimes sharing resources and expertise. At first there were only five galleries, one for each field of geology, zoology, archaeology, mineralogy and paleontology, but as the collections grew, the exhibits had to be classified and organized, especially with the first dinosaur gallery that started in the mid 1960s. The natural history galleries are all located on the second floor, and has samples and collections of animals from around the world. In their World culture galleries, the A. G. Leventis foundation gallery of ancient Cyprus has about 300 relics that date from 2200 to 30 B. C. It is a magnificent museum and should be visited at least once in everyone's lifetime, because it does house such a diverse and spectacular collection.

January 11, 2011