R.C. Harris Water Filtration Plant

You might think that looking at a building that filters the city's water supply from the lake would probably look very functional and maybe austere, but then you wouldn't be looking at Toronto's R.C. Harris Filtration Plant.  Ronald Caldwell Harris, was a one-time commissioner of works and city engineer in Toronto.  We take the purification of our drinking water for granted today, but you know it took decades to achieve this.  Associated with the filtration plant, is a 3-kilometre rock tunnel into the lake, a supply tunnel about 20 metres below street level, that stretches across the city, and several reservoirs.  From the filtration plant you can view the Toronto skyline.  You can get here, just off of the Waterfront trail, a little west of Fallingbrook Drive on Toronto's lake shore south of Queen Street east, you will see the Art Deco (1930's) stylized exterior of the Filtration Plant, which serves a functional purpose and is aesthetically beautiful too. (Note: They are doing some renovations / restructuring to the Plant, so pictures do not show top form.)
R.C. Harris Filtration Plant

So beautiful in fact, its appeared in countless movies and TV shows as well as referred to in the words written by Micahel Ondatjee "Skin of the Lion" (see other references of the book in "Bloor/Castlefrank Subway" in this blog).  There was a time that you could take tours inside the building to see the process in action, but this all stopped after the security changes from the aftermath of September 11 ('9-11').

Looking in .. on the outside
Getting to the plant from the beach below is a bit of a climb up, but I learned that the hard way. I saw an old cement staircase that was suspended on the hill, unattached and inundated with graffiti. I climbed up alone, and realized half way up I was more or less stuck.  Imagine the slope was so steep, I literally rested myself against a deeply rooted tree from head to foot, leaning on a 45 degree angle.  Below me was a good 30 metre drop and above me was another 15, so I took a chance.  At my age I should know better, but as long as I am able, I'll probably still continue to find myself between self induced rock spots and hard places!

The climb up...
I pushed off from the comfort of the tree trunk and fell forward to the dark soiled ground and clawed my way to the closest tree root to hang on too.  Found one and used it (hoping it wouldn't give way), and pulled myself ever closer to the top.  Root after secured tree root, I made it exhausted, dirty and safe.  While dusting myself off, a resident of the house who lived on top looked over at me and I looked out at the view below and said, "well that was uneventful..." to which he replied, 'You know just a few metres down the beach is a walkway to the Harris Plant, it probably would have been a lot easier"...we both laughed.  So now you now.  Even if there are no more tours inside, you can still get up close and personal on the outside.

Heads Up: I spoke to the City Superintendent who oversees the Plant operations, who told me that every year in May they have an open house to the public, which gets booked up quickly.  Keep checking for availabilities if interested in the early summer.


On a much sadder note: If you happen to visit this portion of the waterfront trail on the beach front, you may find a memorial for two brothers, aged 17 and 22 that drowned  Sunday August 5th in Lake Ontario.  Full Story posted here