Kiwanis to keep running Casa Loma while castle's future being considered
(Posted Date: Wednesday, August 3, 2005)

By Sandie Benitah

A special committee contemplating the future of Casa Loma will likely extend the Kiwanis Club's contract to operate the castle for a few more years until it can decide what is best for one of the city's biggest tourist attractions.

"The Kiwanis have been operating the castle since the 1930s and they've done a very good service in managing it, but now it's part of the evaluation" said Joe Mihevc, the city councillor for the neighbourhood and a member of the committee. "Kiwanis's contract is up in 2005. We will certainly advocate extending it for another year or so until we finish our review."

The committee, made up of about 12 people ~ politicians, residents and people from the private sector ~ has been meeting regularly since the fall, talking about ways to make Casa Loma a place for the entire neighbourhood rather than being merely a site for visitors to explore.

The committee has even heard from Trelawny Howell, the great-grandniece of Sir Henry Pellatt, the financier who built Casa Loma in the early 20th century.

Howell, who is not a member of the committee, has spoken to Mihevc several times about her opposition to the way the castle is being run and recently wrote an article about her displeasure with the castle's management in an issue of <I>Toronto Waterfront Magazine,</I> where she accused the Kiwanis Club of failing to promote and use the cultural resource treasure it is.

"A quick tour of the castle tells it all" she wrote. "A Druxy's Deli in the basement where a five-star restaurant would be more fitting, considering the castle's kitchen oven was built large enough to roast a whole ox. Display cases block the view of what was once the country's largest private wine cellar. Pieces of period furniture here and there are long overdue for cleaning or disposal. Tucked away on the third floor, tribute rooms lack recognition to Colonel Pellatt's revered Queen's Own Rifles.

Over the years, the Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma has chosen to promote family-based activities. They held a day camp for kids and have run special events such as Mother's Day brunches, fairs and holiday specials, as well as renting it out to the community as a banquet hall for special occasions.

"Hopefully, we can continue our operations," said Richard Wozenilek, a spokesman and volunteer for the Kiwanis Club. "We've had very good success there."

Wozenilek said he's heard the committee will want to extend the contract until Dec. 31, 2008. Their current contract expires September 2006.

The Kiwanis Club has extended its contract every five years since it began looking after operations in 1936. However, not one member of the charitable organization is on the committee.

"We're disappointed Kiwanis was not given a seat at the table," said Wozenilek, but added the group had been briefed a few times. "We hope to continue to get these briefs."

So far, the committee has come up with some ideas on how to maximize the castle's use, but mostly it has looked at other castles around North America to see how they have been run.

"We're flushing out different examples of how it could be run and how we could have a lot better integration with the local neighbourhood," said Mihevc.

Some of the ideas that have emerged are for an evening concert-series, an established heritage walk around the area from Dupont St. to the castle and activity-based drop-in programs that would be exclusively for people living in the area. Howell suggested the castle be used for honouring visiting dignitaries and for featuring top international cuisine.

Suggestions and comments from the general public are always appreciated, said Mihevc, and each will be considered along with ideas from the committee members. Mihevc said he hopes to approach city council by late 2006 with a solid plan for the castle for them to approve.

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Forest Hill

Posted Date: Wednesday, August 3, 2005
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