Two (very different) Gothic Revival Mansions

This is the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina…

Pretty impressive, right? It’s even more impressive in person. I am not the only one who thinks so — over 1 million people visit every year. The estate is still owned by one of the Vanderbilt’s descendants —  William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil — who sounds like a pretty business-savvy fellow…

“My acquaintances in the world of historic preservation told me in the 1960s that Biltmore could never be profitable, that I couldn’t run it as a private enterprise,” recalls Cecil, who is president of The Biltmore Company, which operates the 8,000 acre estate in Asheville, NC. “But they were wrong.”

Beyond the actual castle — I mean house — the grounds are pretty  amazing, too — all 125,000-acres of them were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

The architecture is not exactly my taste, but I really enjoyed my visit there a few years ago.

And this is Casa Loma in Toronto…

Also quite impressive! The exterior was restored a few years ago at a cost of $20 million. The interior — well — it’s very tired. In fact, some parts of the mansion appear to be in dire need of serious restoration.

The City of Toronto has always owned Casa Loma but it was managed by the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma (KCCL) from 1937 to 2011. Currently it’s run by the Casa Loma Corporation. Apparently, there was a bit of a power struggle between the city and the Kiwanis..I must have missed that in the paper.

In 2006, a public process to develop a strategic vision for Casa Loma was started, but because of downturns in the economy and a number of financial challenges, this  vision has not been implemented to any significant extent. That’s too bad.

There were not a lot of people there this past weekend which surprised me a bit. From what I read, the attraction gets about 300,000 visitors a year, which sounds like a lot. But to compare, the CN Tower gets 2 million visitors or so a year.

Casa Loma is — at the risk of sounding maudlin — a beautiful tourist attraction in dire need of some love. I hope it gets some soon.

That said, I did enjoy my visit — especially the stables and the tunnel!







  1. Too bad the 2006 strategic plan was abandoned! Maybe they’ll revive it. Hmmm…I might forward your blog post to my city councillor. 🙂

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