R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant
What can be said about the RC Harris Plant that hasn’t been said? It’s a stunner architecturally and just so pristine and sterile inside. While my mind was not equiped to really understand the water treatment process, I did enjoy the exposition for the need for such a facility – a growing city needs its infrastructure.
Greenwood Subway Yard
A really popular site and for me, it was cool to say that I went, but I’m not sure it did it for me. It featured some very long lines, a ride on a subway car around the yard, and a self-guided tour through the machine shop. Massive facility, but like at the RC Harris Plant, I didn’t care much for how the subway cars worked.
401 Richmond wasn’t formally part of Doors Open, but they ran tours through the building in their own ‘Doors Ajar’. I did an architectural/historical walk, which was a complete treat because it is such a great building. The industrial history was great, and to know that it’s been repurposed into a beautiful space where great artists and groups can do good work is just amazing.
High Level Pumping Station
Much like the water palace, I didn’t care much for the workings of machinery itself as much as the contextual significance of the site. A nice treat, though, was the 1885 house behind the building, which served as the original pumping station for the Yorkville Waterworks and later the engineer’s house.
This was my favourite site of the weekend. The Masonic Temple has such a layered history and InfoTech pays such good tribute to preserving it and keeping in with its ethos. The top floor is the hall where the Freemasons themselves met. It also features Mick Jagger’s pool table from when the Stones stayed in the building and a swirly slide in an adjoined room. The bottom floors are largely office space, some of which was occupied by MTV, and to pay tribute to the building’s entertainment past, all the rooms are named after artists who performed on its stage.
Arts & Letters Club
The Arts & Letters Club reminded me a lot of the Masonic Temple: performance hall on the ground floor, another ‘hall’ on the top floor with an elevated ‘stage’ as well, and office space in the floors between. It’s also a fascinating piece of cultural heritage as many prominent people have been members of the club, including the Group of Seven.
I did this site last year, but lamented not getting pictures. Bad timing prevented me from doing the tour again, but from what I remember, Knox shows up in more movies than any Toronto location (OK, next to Casa Loma). And for good reason – it’s gorgeous.
Coach House Books
This was the smallest and most hidden of all Doors Open sites this year, but easily one of the best. Coach House Books is located in a laneway north of Robarts, and like the name suggests, it’s a publishing company headquartered in a former stable house. What’s remarkable about Coach House is it has a staff of only three that is responsible for putting out such an amazing line of titles. A few of my favourite books – uTOpia, Some Great Idea, StrollTO, and most recently, The Ward – are Coach House titles.
Munk School of Global Affairs
I was really trying to get to St. George subway when I passed by the Munk School. Then I thought, ‘Eh, why not?’ and walked through its doors. I’m glad I did, because the school’s Transit House was a nice gem. It’s the only building in Toronto that’s positioned in accordance to the needles of a compass. It also has clinker bricks!