A Doors Open tour of the east end would not be complete without a look at the wonderfully opulent R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant. The building was constructed in the early 1930s and named after Rowland Caldwell Harris who was Toronto’s Commissioner of Works from 1914 to 1945. The R.C. Harris Plant operates 24/7, is environmentally sustainable and cost-efficient, provides clean water for 36% of Toronto, and has been a national historic civil engineering site since 1992. As you can see here, the plant is currently undergoing renovations, with work being done to the pumping station and the administration building (which was closed this weekend), as well as a residue management facility currently being constructed underground.
Beginning with the largest building, the filter station, the southern entrance takes you up to the resplendent art deco foyer. The building is one long hall bisected by the entrance within which a monument to the equipment that was once used is featured.
The flooring is entirely marble here which reflects the light from the many skylights around the space. It is unfortunate that the rooms surrounding the hall contain only filter beds which, from above the water level, appear to consist of pools of stagnant water.
With the administration bulding closed, the pumping station is the next stop. Several pumps each weighing many tons are mounted on the ground level and basement of this building. You can get a nice view of the pumping room from the balcony from the former pump control room.
The control room sits empty now since the computers required to control the pumps are a fraction of the size they were in 1941 when the plant began operations. The main space features a few displays today, such as an interactive map showing the many water treatment facilities in Toronto.
A ride along Queen Street to Parliament brings you to St. Paul’s Basilica, Toronto’s oldest Roman Catholic congregation having been established in 1822. The building itself was constructed in 1889 based on the design of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Lack of experience with digital cameras caused some of these photos to be black and white, although it may have been an act of God.
The nave is much longer than shown in this photo, which also does not properly show the wonderful colours of white and gold and the luminousness of the interior.
Above the chancel there are two murals, one of the last supper and the other showing the conversion of Paul of Tarsis on the Road to Damascus. Between them is the choral motet “Saule, Saule, quid me persequeris?” which translates to “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
The next nearest site is the Alumnae Theatre. The theatre on Berkeley Street was actually the old Firehall No. 4 when it was built in 1900, however when the Firehall moved several decades later, the City kept ownership. It was renovated and restored in 1972 by the Alumnae Theatre Group and now contains space for a main stage and upstairs studio theatre. Some of the elements from its time as a firehall still remain, such as the fireman’s pole outside the main stage.
From Alumnae Theatre, Corktown’s Little Trinity Anglican Church is only a few blocks away. Little Trinity, built in 1843, is Toronto’s oldest surviving Anglican church. Although restored after a fire damaged the altar in 1961, the building today is largely unchanged from its original self. The parish has grown since its first service in 1844 and now incorporates Little Trinity House next door on King Street where the administration is located, a back house south of the Church, and two historic-designated townhouses at 399 King Street which are currently being restored by the Church.
Heading east down King and south down Gilead Lane takes you to the Formerly Building, the wonderfully creative and eclectic home of Toronto’s architectural firms AGATHOM Co. and Omas44 as well as the landscape designer Joel Loblaw Inc. The building itself appears to be a mid-century industrial structure with an unknown date of origin which was repurposed by AGATHOM for their use.
The interior has been redone in finished hardwood and a variety of industrial materials. The adjacent building appears to still function as a warehouse space. Additionally, the architects and designers have put their building models out on display for the weekend and have even included paper cut-out models of the Formerly Building for patrons to put together.
Lastly, we arrive at the Distillery District’s Artscape Studios where, for this weekend only, the original distillery elevator is taking passengers on a shaky ride between the ground and fourth floor. The building has been renovated to house art studios on upper levels.
Whimsical murals can be found on the walls here and the floor appears to be the restored original hardwood. On the main floor, the spiraling whisky crate chute - which originally spanned 4 stories I was told - has been repurposed as art exhibition.
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