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R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant

Standing at the east end of the Queen St streetcar line, surrounded by public parklands, sits a large Art Deco building that is known to almost everyone living in the city of Toronto. The stunning building is the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, and is admired for it's stunning exterior. What many people are unaware of is it's lavish interior, putting form well above function.

Location attributes for R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant
Location   Toronto, Ontario
Built :: Closed   1941 :: N/A
Status   Active
Difficulty   ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Hazards Risk   ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Security Risk   ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
AUE Rating   ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

The building is named after Rowland Caldwell Harris, the longest serving commissioner of Public Works in Toronto. R.C. Harris oversaw the construction of not only the facility, but also the inspiring Prince Edward Viaduct. Harris was also known for his foresight, as he was the one who ensured that the lower deck was added to the design of the viaduct, which sat unused until the construction of the Bloor-Danforth subway 48 years later, but proved to be a vital design component.

Likewise, he ensured that the water treatment plant was designed with extra piping in place to allow for easy expansion. That expansion occurred 9 years after opening, in 1950. R.C. Harris never got to see his foresight in either case pay off, having passed away in 1945.

As alluded to earlier, the interior of the plant, which has been closed off to the public in the wake of the September 11 attacks, is just as opulent as the exterior, and is now being reopened to tours by the public, including Doors Open (which it was part of in 2001 previously). These opulent interiors include lots of white and green marble, along with ornate brass. None of this would be expected in an ordinary water treatment plant, but R.C. Harris is anything but ordinary, having earned the nickname of "The Palace of Purification".

The crowds for Doors Open made it somewhat difficult to capture this opulence, but that was to be expected as everyone wanted to see this famous building being reopened after 10 years. You just have to work with what you get. What I would give for a private tour of the plant, however...

Doors Open Toronto 2011 - May 2011
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