Archive Doors Open Toronto 2011    

RC Harris Water Treatment Plant
2701 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4E 1J1
Telephone: --

District: East (former Scarborough)

Architect and year:
Thomas C. Pomphrey, 1930's

Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Last admittance to building: 4:30
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Last admittance to building: 4:30

The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant is one of Canada's most spectacular public buildings, designed in 1929, built primarily from 1932 to 1937, opened in 1941, and expanded from 1955 to 1958. The plant produces up to 950 million litres of water per day. It is a National Historic Civil Engineering Site and is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act for architectural and historical reasons. Dubbing it "The Palace of Purification," critics attached the plant's appearance as early as 1938. The use of materials like marble and bronze in the interior (plus the extensive limestone carvings on the exterior) is both notable and characteristic of the times. The intent was to create a water "show case" for the public. R.C. Harris is the largest ensemble of Art Deco buildings in Toronto. The plant features stepped or set-back profiles and a wealth of flattened geometric and highly stylized ornament in stone, brick, and metal. The plant is an excellent example of how the Art Deco style could integrate Late Romaneque Revival and Modern Classical forms, which are represented by the round-arched opening in the Filter Building and the simplified pediments and pilasters on the Pumping Station.

Event information:
A self-guided tour will help you explore the architectural features of the two largest buildings at R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant. Plant Water Treatment staff will be available to answer your questions on the water treatment process. In the pump house, Diaspora Dialogues hosts an interactive art installation and panel discussion exploring what as a society we collectively decide to forget and what we choose to hold onto through memory and its embodiment in our physical city. Using the metaphor of infrastructure, The "Forgetful City" runs all weekend. You are invited to contribute your photos or stories to be incorporated into the ever-evolving installation either in advance or during that weekend. The panel will take place on Sunday from 1-3 p.m. For more details, and to find out how to contribute, visit

Other information:
Facility has lots of steps and stairs, not all areas accessible.

Photography permitted: Yes  tripod: YesFilming permitted: No   tripod: No


TTC (nearest station) Victoria Park Bus/streetcar: Queen St. East end of run

Visit their web site: (None available)

Accessibility: Partial   Washrooms: Yes   Parking: None   Highlights: New this year   


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