Thursday Doors: Secrets

After last week’s Thursday Doors post, Marty from Snakes In The Grass suggested a blog series on Forgotten Photos. I liked the idea and immediately went back into my photo library looking for buried treasure.

One of the treasures I found was from last year’s visit to Casa Loma … a castle-wannabe built in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century by shaker-and-mover Sir Henry Pellatt.

You may recall that this is where I first met our intrepid Thursday Doors leader, Norm Frampton.

Me, shooting Norm, shooting me …. deep in the bowels of one of the castle’s towers

Norm and I both wrote posts sharing doors we found on this visit, but I had dozens of photos still hidden in my library. You can see Norm’s 2018 post here and my post about the stables here.

Cabinet in the dining room

The former mansion, now a tourist attraction, is a visual treat and deserves to be featured a second time.

“Phantom of the Opera” immediately comes to mind

However, this time I have a story to tell about one of Casa Loma’s secrets dating back to the dark days of World War II.

Casa Loma was the secret site of Station M.

Sir Henry Pellatt’s bedroom. This might be taking the habit of keeping a weapon under the pillow a little too far.

Hidden within the underground of the castle and the nearby stables, Station M was involved in a variety of activities including the production of forged passports, documents, and uniforms to support the agents being trained at nearby Camp X east of the city.

Activities also included continued development of the ASDIC (named for the Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee) which was a predecessor to today’s sonar (an acronym for Sound Navigation Ranging). Its purpose was to detect submarines using sound waves.

Desk in Sir Henry Pellatt’s study

When German bombing destroyed the British facility where the device was being made, a new, safer location needed to be found to continue its development.

I have no information about that crest … purveyor of pigs to the Crown? (you know I’m joking, right?)

Someone came up with the brilliant idea of using the horse stables at Casa Loma for this work. If you’ve read my post about the stables, you already know this was – and still is – an extraordinary building on its own.

Casa Loma Stables

What I found particularly interesting about this story is that it was such a well-kept secret, apparently even the city council didn’t know about it until years after the war had ended.

Climbing up into one of the castle towers

Secrets are meant to be kept … and apparently we’re really good at it!

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For more about Casa Loma’s secret involvement in the war effort, the CBC prepared this 4 minute video which you may find very interesting. Β I know I did.

https://www.cbc.ca/xcompany/videos/secret-locations-of-ww2/inside-station-m-casa-loma

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Thursday Doors is a weekly photo challenge hosted by Norm at Norm 2.0. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and I’m always learning something new. I encourage you to take a look.

93 comments

  1. Hi Joanne – another post that I wish I had time to read all
    Of the comments too – but must be off to bed and wanted to leave a comment 😊

    How absolutely cool
    That this place was used during ww2 – and how the council did not know – reminds me as to how careful we all had to be at that time.
    And the crest interpretation was funny –
    Ha

    Like

  2. Oh wow, Joanne, that place is fascinating and beautiful! I really love the coral door with the circular emblem — with that brick and trim. Of course, the whole thing is wondrous. Is this the place where the stables had incredibly clean and perfectly patterned floors? I think it might have been.

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    • Thanks πŸ™‚

      If I was going to say anything negative about Casa Loma, it would be the crowds. Each time I’ve gone, it’s been first thing in the morning when the crowds were virtually non-existent. By the time we left a few hours later, it was getting very congested.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I need another visit to Casa Loma, it’s been a few years now. I’ve been going through my old photos and doing a lot of purging which leads to forgotten photos that then lead to a blog post which then leads to doing some research.

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  4. I also like the idea of resurrecting forgotten photos. We happened to visit Casa Loma last year (part of the Hop on Hop off, Toronto excursion). It is definitely a visual treat. I was not at all aware of Station M. I plan to stop by and find out more about Thursday doors.

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    • I love those hop-on, hop-off excursions when I visit other cities. I had thought to do it one day in Toronto just for fun, but realized that it wouldn’t take me anywhere I hadn’t been before.

      Check out Thursday Doors. You may find it a lot of fun to participate. Suddenly doors become so much more interesting!

      Like

  5. I love to see more pictures of this amazing place.. thank you! Interesting history too. Station M and Camp X… I wonder the person in charge of the names was just not very creative, or did they think those names sounded mysterious. I’m glad that you got a few closeups of the carvings on the furniture… really beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • At the company where I worked, our projects were always given names and our IT group was particularly creative at it. There was no apparent rhyme or reason to their naming conventions.

      The only thought I had to the use of alpha letters for naming convention is that it removes the accidental possibility of divulging any information about the facility.
      However, that’s just speculation on my part. I am known to overthink things πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Very interesting and thank you for the CBC link. I vaguely remember my visit to this castle but what I rememberered I have to go through a tunnel to get to the other side that I think it was the stable.

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  7. I first visited Casa Loma as a child when my grandfather was here – we went on the tour and I was the one allowed to push the door to the secret passage!
    A few years ago I took my then 5 year old niece – we walked in from St. Clair so the castle didn’t come into view until we were quite close – she stopped dead and exclaimed “It’s a REAL castle”! I guess she though her aunt was just telling her stories. πŸ™‚
    Spading House next door is also well worth a visit, especially in the summer when the gardens & orchards are in bloom.

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    • As a transplant to Toronto, I didn’t see Casa Loma until I was in my 30s. Like your niece, I was just as surprised.
      Although I had read about the stables, I hadn’t seen until just a few years ago. I was equally gob-smacked again.

      I have yet to see Spadina House. The only times I’ve been in the area is off-season when it wasn’t open. I’ve heard the gardens are gorgeous. One day …!

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  8. You do dig up some interesting tidbits. I’ve been to Casa Loma and somehow missed that treasure. I don’t remember much about the visit, truth be told, because I believe our children were 10, 7, and 4 at the time. Honestly, I don’t remember much of our holidays when they were that age. Thank goodness for photos. Time to go back to Casa Loma and visit again.

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    • I’ve only been a couple of times, and quite frankly I don’t remember much about the first visit either. It seems to be one of those places you could visit many times and experience something new each time.

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  9. Beautiful post! I believed your crest description until you told us you were kidding πŸ˜‰. That pic of the table leg was awesome. And that glass lightwell where the organist has an β€œorgasm” is a musician’s dream (I won’t say what kind of dream, though).

    Thanks, too for the interesting secret history lesson!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh this reminds me of all the unused photos I still have from that day, though alas, none of them are doors. The furniture in this place is quite something and your Phantom shot of the organ is awesome! I’m glad you dug it out because I had totally forgotten about that one.
    Gee that was a fun day πŸ˜€

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  11. Fantastic post, Joanne. I love the history that you shared on the building…the “untold story”.
    I also think that “Forgotten Photos” is a great challenge for a series. I have tons lurking on my phone and ipad; I wonder what stories I could share from them??? I love what you have come up with for yours!

    Like

  12. Not exactly the type of place you’d expect to hide secrets! Always interesting to see these magnificent older buildings in the center of a modern city. Reminds me of the Tower of London.

    Like

    • Apparently it was the perfect place to hide secrets. Hiding in plain sight is an actual strategy πŸ™‚
      I too find the mix of old and new rather interesting. With a place like Casa Loma, I try to imagine what it would have been like when it was essentially on the outskirts of town.

      Like

  13. What a beautiful place and fascinating history. Thanks for sharing, Joanne. The photo of the stables made me laugh because at first I thought it was the entire mansion! I’d gladly take up residence in the stables.

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  14. What an intriguing side of a much-loved monument! I will always remember how much my French in-laws enjoyed Casa Loma, a replica Scottish castle right in the middle of Toronto. It amazed me because it seemed like such a small thing compared to all the historic buildings in France, but they were captivated!

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    • You’re right – it is funny that they come from France which has one spectacular historical site after another, and they’re intrigued by Casa Loma.
      I think part of the fascination is that it’s an oddity. It simply doesn’t match its environment!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Glad these photos saw the light of day! Okay, new wishlist item: I want Sir Henry Pellatt’s bedroom furniture. The wife probably won’t, but maybe I can arrange to get it without her noticing. πŸ˜‰ – Marty

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    • I find it pretty incredible too and wonder exactly how accurate that statement really is.
      It was a different time though so it’s quite possible.
      In today’s environment, I think it would be virtually impossible!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never actually seen the outside of Casa Loma in the summer when the gardens are in bloom. I always seem to go when it’s bitterly cold outside.

      I know it can get stupid-busy. The few times I’ve gone, it was always early in the morning shortly after they’ve opened. On this last visit, we were leaving as the crowds started to come in.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Secret stuff is always interesting. Secret history is a favorite of mine and secret history that has interesting doors – Score big for Joanne!

    I love that picture of the window and organ. I also really like the close-up of the carved cabriole leg on the desk. I made two sets of cabriole legs – plain, no carvings – and they are difficutl projects. I can’t imagine adding the challenge of such a beautiful carving.

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  17. Absolutely amazing. I enjoy learning about history, especially secret history. Using this amazing castle for something more stealthy is brilliant. Great photos, too.

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    • A fellow lover of unusual historical stories πŸ™‚

      When I was a child growing up hearing stories about the war, it was something that happened very far away.
      Only now am I learning that so much was also happening here!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Isn’t it both fun and amazing to find out all the secret stuff?! That Phantom of the Opera photo….that looks beautiful. Oh, yes–pity the poor person who is tasked with washing all those windows.

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  19. Interesting history to Casa Loma, Joanne. Your photos are great, capturing the majesty and beauty of this domicile and the furniture inside it. There is so much height and grandeur, I think it would be difficult to get so much into the camera frame, especially with the organ windows. I like seeing how it fits into the neighborhood these days, too.

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    • This kind of place is eye-candy. As a photographer your eyes are bouncing all over the place at all the wonderful detail. I’ve been here a few times now and on each visit I see things I hadn’t noticed before.

      That picture with the organ was a tough shot to get. I’m not a very skilled photographer and trying to deal with all that glare in such a large space was challenging for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. As I recall from your other post, the owner went broke building this castle. I can see why. It looks like a lot of money was put into it. Even the stables look extremely ostentatious. But beautiful.

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    • I remembered the story to be a little more complicated than that so I went to Wikipedia for this explanation:

      “Much of Pellatt’s fortune was made through investments in the railway and hydro-electric industries in Canada, including the Toronto Electric Light Company. However, legislator Adam Beck launched a campaign against the great industrialists of Canada, proclaiming that hydro power “should be as free as air”. Through legislative process and by whipping up anti-rich sentiment, Beck was able to successfully appropriate Pellatt’s life work and take his electric companies from him. Beck then led a populist revolt to raise Pellatt’s taxes on his castle, Casa Loma, from $600 per year to $12,000. The strain of losing all of his income, coupled with the large increase in property taxes for his castle, led him to rely solely on his real estate investments, which were unsuccessful due to the beginning of World War I. After the province expropriated his electrical power generating business, and his aircraft manufacturing business was appropriated by Beck as part of the war effort during World War I, Pellatt was driven to near-bankruptcy, which forced him and Lady Pellatt to leave Casa Loma in 1923. They therefore moved to their farm at Marylake in King City.”

      Can you just imagine any attempt today to divest the rich of their holdings?!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, that sounds a lot like communism. Seems to me like Pellat’s biggest mistake was that he failed to diversify, and had too many eggs in too few baskets. It’s hard to imagine such expropriation occurring today, but I do sense a turning tide against the ultra-rich. I suspect tax rates in our country are going to be increasing at the top brackets, over the next few decades. When the richest 1% hold half of the country’s wealth, it becomes popular for politicians to go after them.

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    • I’ve always liked Casa Loma but after I discovered their wartime involvement, I was even more invested in it!
      I wish I could remember where I found that door. I think it was in the underground tunnel between the castle and the stable.

      Like

  21. Wow, thanks so much for sharing this! Oh, for the days when secrets were secrets. These days everything seems to be splashed in the news, even fake secrets. πŸ™‚ But I find this sort of story fascinating. I like the juxtaposition of the stables against the background with some high-rise buildings. Such a contrast.

    janet

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    • I LOVE this kind of stuff – unearthing stories that are little known and trying to tie the pieces together. There is so little information available on this one. I suspect it’s because after the war, the orders were destroy everything.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I’m so happy you dug up these photographs, Joanne…they’re incredible. I definitely thought of Phantom of the Opera and also how much maintenance goes into keeping those windows clean…yikes! My favorite was “Me, shooting Norm, shooting me.” πŸ™‚

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    • Washing windows is not my favourite activity but dirty windows make me crazy. These would definitely be a handful!

      Norm and I were a little punchy on this outing. A certain amount of silliness might have been involved πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  23. Cool building, with great secrets, but I love that organ! I guess the organist is supposed to be inspired by the view from the window, which does it for me πŸ˜‰

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    • I’ve been to Casa Loma a few times, but this was the first time I went exploring in back areas that included a walkway behind the pipes for the organ. I was fascinated with them .. but unfortunately I wasn’t quite as happy with my photos. The pipes are behind a glass wall which wasn’t very conducive to photography.
      Actually, now that I think of it, there was at least one more organ so the pipes probably weren’t for this one.

      Liked by 1 person

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