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Casa Loma gets a face-lift


Experts’ surveys reveal extensive deterioration

As we move closer to the millennium, remnants of the past are treasured with a renewed vigor. Over the past few years there has been an increased focus on taking care of our historical sites to ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to appreciate them. People driving down Spadina Road this past spring would have noticed one such restoration project taking place at Casa Loma.

The City of Toronto is responsible for maintaining the exterior roofs and walls of Casa Loma, the stables and the perimeter walls of the gardens. In 1994, the city initiated a project to restore the exterior which had been battered by time and the elements. Summit Restoration Inc. was hired to conduct a survey of the castle and the surrounding structures. As a result of the deterioration revealed in this 1995 survey, the city began an extensive restoration of the famous landmark to stabilize its superstructure.

To carry out the restoration project, Vanbotts Construction Corporation was selected as Construction Manager in 1996, with Taylor/Hazell in the fall of 1996 and January 1997, revealed that certain areas of the exterior roof and wall structures were in an advanced stage of deterioration. The preservation of an invaluable building was not the only issue – the state of these exteriors was such that they posed a public safety hazard.

The maintenance of such an immense building is far from an easy task. Time and Canada’s less than gentle weather have taken their toll. In addition, a number of other factors resulted in the deterioration of the structure. Lack of timely maintenance, outdated repair techniques, and materials reaching or exceeding their life expectancy are just a few of the reasons that Casa Loma’s exterior was in need of rejuvenation.

Key areas which required work were the stable roof, the main entrance, the Scottish tower, the conservatory roof, the potting shed roof, the protective wall surrounding the castle and many of the chimneys and the roof planes on the main building. Areas that called for immediate attention were addressed first. In the interest of public safety, two projects were undertaken in early 1997 – the complete removal of a chimney in April and the stabilization of the potting shed roof. Further work will be done on the conservatory roof, the main entrance and portico, and the stables as these are areas which most directly affect the public.

All bricks are not created equal

Restoration of an historical building involves much more than simply patching and beautifying the structure. Extra planning is involved to ensure that the style of the building is maintained in an historically accurate manner, while keeping in mind the costs and longevity of the reconstruction.

In the case of Casa Loma, special emphasis has been placed on the building materials being used. In the past restoration or repairs to the exterior of Casa Loma have resulted in early deterioration of incompatible materials being used. The main materials used in the original construction of Casa Loma were a hard buff clay brick which was laid up with “American Bond” and constructed using lime based mortar. This brick was then faced with random grey sandstone veneer. Cast stone was used mainly for decorative and capstone purposes, and for the conical turrets. The care that Sir Henry Pellatt, the builder and original owner of Casa Loma, took in choosing the materials must be emulated by any restoration team. Replication of these materials is integral to staying true to the original architectural vision of Casa Loma.

In addition, it has been assumed that “Roman Stone”, a patented form of cast concrete, was utilized in the construction of Casa Loma. This assumption is based on the fact that Sir Henry was the president of the Roman Stone Company. In keeping with the mandate to maintain the architectural integrity of Casa Loma, care and time are being taken to recreate the concrete mixture. Taylor/Hazell Architects are developing and testing replacement stone of similar characteristics to ensure performance over a longer period.

Long-term plans

The restoration project at Casa Loma will be phased over several years. The cost of properly restoring the castle is estimated at a minimum cost of $16 million.
Phase One is already under way with a $750,000 budget which is directed towards the stabilization of the conservatory roof, entrance tower and portico.
The second part of this massive project this year will be the masonry restoration of the stables which will include the dismantling and restoration of turrets and main gable, and masonry replacement around the potting shed.

The careful restoration of Casa Loma will ensure that the famous “house on the hill” will continue to be enjoyed by the many visitors it draws each year.

Lou Seiler, Director of Marketing
Casa Loma
(416) 923-1171 ext. 212