That’s right, like the Black Church, the R.C. Harris Water Treatment plant is a filming location for John Carpenter’s 1995 In the Mouth of Madness, used as both the exterior and interior of the insane asylum where Neill is incarcerated and from where he tells his story of an evil horror author and the Lovecraftian monsters he is bent on unleashing. Its exterior is in the first shot in the movie, in fact.
Built on the site of a 19th century amusement park, the building became a fully operational Death star in 1941 after nine years of construction. Named after the city’s commissioner of public works who was responsible for the project, the plant was meant to be more than a mere operational facility. It was a statement. And that statement was that Toronto is an awesome place to drink water. The edifice’s Art Deco design and sweeping marble interiors got it the name “Palace of Purification,” which to me conjures images of religious fervor in an esoteric sect of adherents. In other words, like something from the movies.
The treatment plant is at the end of Queen Street East. You can walk right up the steps to read its historical plaque, or head down the hill to the shore of Lake Ontario.
My day at the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant was a bit more pleasant than that.