Quite what the occupants of Spadina House must have thought when Casa Loma went up next door can only be imagined, but there must have been an awful lot of curtain-twitching. The two houses are a study in contrasts: Casa Loma a grandiose pile, Spadina an elegant Victorian property of genteel appearance dating from 1866. Spadina was built by James Austin, a wealthy banker of Irish extraction whose descendants lived here until 1983, when the house was bequeathed to the city. The Austins’ long and uninterrupted occupation means the house’s furnishings are nearly all genuine family artefacts, and they provide an intriguing insight into their changing tastes and interests.

Particular highlights of the guided tour include the conservatory trap-door that allowed the gardeners to come and go unseen by their employers, an assortment of period chairs designed to accommodate the largest of bustles, the original gas chandeliers and a couple of canvases by Cornelius Krieghoff. Pride of place, however, goes to the Billiard Room, which comes complete with an inventive Art Nouveau decorative frieze.

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