Toronto Through My Lens

R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant

For today’s post, let’s take a little trip to the east end of the city.

The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant is an absolute masterpiece of Art Deco, located on the shore of Lake Ontario at 2701 Queen Street East in Toronto. The plant was designed in 1929 and built from 1932 to 1937. It opened in 1941 and was later expanded from 1955 to 1958. The plant is named after Roland Caldwell Harris, who was the Commissioner of Works from 1912 until his death in 1945.

The R.C. Harris Filtration Plant
2701 Queen Street East, Toronto

The structure looks like a museum, but is actually a water treatment plant. Surprisingly, the inside of the building is similarly elegant, with cavernous halls and marble passages, all full of filtration equipment. This opulence has earned the building the nickname “Palace of Purification.”

There are three buildings comprising the plant: the Filter Building, the Service Building and the Pumping Station. Together they represent the largest example of Art Deco in the entire city. The use of marble, bronze and carved limestone is prevalent throughout and typical of the Art Deco architectural style.

The Filter Building

Filter Operating Galleries, Filter Building
South Entrance Lobby, Filter Building
South Entrance Lobby, Filter Building
Entrance Hall, Filter Building
Signal Pylon in Rotunda, Filter Building
The signal pylon indicates time and filter backwash conditions
Signal Pylon in Rotunda, Filter Building
The signal pylon indicates time and filter backwash conditions
Filter Operating Galleries, Filter Building
Each gallery is over 110m long and provides access to 20 filters
Controls in Filter Operating Galleries, Filter Building
Fountain Outside Filter Building
Filter Building

The Service Building

The Pumping Station

Pumping Station
High-Lift Room, Pumping Station
High-Lift Room, Pumping Station
This signal panel indicates which pumps are operating
Pumping Station & Filter Building

The water treatment plant is the largest one in Toronto. It produces 30% of Toronto’s drinking water and can potentially produce 950 million litres daily.

The R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant has been used in dozens of films and television series as a prison, clinic or headquarters.

Lake Ontario Beside The Plant
The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant 2701 Queen Street East, Toronto

A beautiful place to enjoy.

3 Comments

  1. Bob K

    Love the RC Harris. I remember I was once asked what my favourite building in Toronto was and I spent a day thinking about it and came up with this one. The two monumental buildings, not added to or changed substantially, so cleanly overlooking the lake, it’s just a very unusual instance in Toronto of architecture by the lake. I also love that even in the depression they funded this properly and took the effort to make it beautiful, something we apparently have a harder time these days affording, despite our massively larger GDP. Also love that it’s not yet been renamed something like “Hyundai (Harris) Treatment plant”

    • Marvin Job

      I agree. The place is absolutely gorgeous. Thankfully condo developers have not seen fit to pull it down as with so many of our other classic buildings.

  2. David

    This has to be my favourite building in the city. I see it often and always bring friends and family here when they visit. It usually garners a lot of oohs and ahhhs. Yet many Torontonians do not know it exists. PITY!

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