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John Helfrich, Broker, Real Estate Homeward , Brokerage | 416.698.2090 | Direct: 416.464.8920 |

Doors Open Toronto | East End Toronto | R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant

May 27, 2011

RC Harris Water Treatment Plant

2701 Queen St E, Architect: Thomas C. Pomphrey, 1930's


The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant might just be one of Canada's most spectacular public buildings. It was designed in 1929, built primarily from 1932 to 1937, opened in 1941, and expanded from 1955 to 1958. One of four treatment plants for the City of Toronto, it produces up to 950 million litres of drinkable 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 attacked 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. It's an excellent example of how the Art Deco style could integrate Late Romanesque 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.

Tour information:


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

A self-guided tour will help you explore the architectural features of the two largest buildings at R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant. The staff will be available to answer your questions on how the the water treatment process works.

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 architecture. You are invited to contribute your photos or stories to be incorporated into the continuously-evolving installation in advance or during that weekend.

The panel will take place on Sunday from 1-3 p.m.
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