Castle Stable Hides Military Secret

Casa Loma Stables

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If Sir Henry Pellat’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.

The interior of Casa Loma Stables, c 1920s (courtesy City of Toronto Archives/Fonds 1568, Series 568, Item 371).

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.

A Canadian engineer 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 didn’t know of the wartime project until a decade later, long after the Casa Loma stables had done their part to help the Allied victory.

By Dennis Smith

Visit The Canadian Encyclopedia for more on Sir Henry Pellat.