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At the Neville Park Loop: The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant


The majestic R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant sits across from the modest Neville Park Loop. With no bus or subway connections, it is quite literally the end of the line.


Jim Coyle Feature Writer

"Neville Queen." For generations, it was the destination on the roll-sign of the eastbound Queen streetcar, a name so compelling it was adopted by well-known Toronto novelist Hugh Garner as a nom de plume for some of his magazine writing.And how fitting that is — endings, new beginnings, fresh starts, the circle of life being the very essence of all good redemption stories and legends.

The Neville Park Loop is as far east as the Queen St. streetcar goes. With no bus or subway connections, it is quite literally the end of the line.

The little turnaround is actually located at Nursewood Dr., just past the last stop at Neville Park Blvd., a pretty little street running down to Lake Ontario in a part of town where the wayfarer is ever mindful that Toronto was built on water.

The street, and the loop, bestow immortality on Frances Jane Neville, daughter of former Toronto mayor George Monro, whose family occupied a substantial estate in what once was Toronto's cottage country.

If the Neville Park Loop is modest as a terminus for a journey as epic as that of the 501 Queen streetcar, what lies not much farther than a good three-iron to the southeast is as glorious as infrastructure gets.

The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, named for Toronto's long-time public works commissioner, was built in the 1930s on a site that was once an amusement park.

Looking more like a museum housing national treasures than a venue of such utilitarian purpose, it became known as The Palace of Purification and has been featured on a postage stamp, designated under the Ontario Heritage Act and named a national historic civil engineering site by that profession.

So the Queen St. streetcar reaches the Neville Park Loop and sits a spell, the operator taking brief respite, perhaps, or possibly a bite to eat, musing maybe on the symbolism of the place, life being nothing, after all, if not a ceaseless series of beginnings and endings, people walking into, through and out of our lives.

With a tidy bungalow sitting just over the cedars bordering the loop, a water plant atop the hill so striking that it's appeared in movies and in novels, and the sound of the lake audible in the distance, it's a fitting place for reflection.

Whatever begins, also ends, said Seneca. And life's carousel goes round and round.

The destination roll spins.

Long Branch, it says now.

A streetcar of an entirely different name.


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Hi Jim, Your comment about Victoria Park having an amusement park does not tel lthe whole story. I was born on Neville Park Blvd. [Upper above Queen] in 1926.
The park then had thousands of trees and continued to do so until R.C.Harris managed to buy the property part of the Scarborough Township [ a small High Park] & had the trees cut down to build the Water Works as it was known by the old Beachers. The Toronto Railway Co. ran a street-car line down from the Kingston Rd. via Blantyre Ave. right into the Park. There was a ferry from York Street plus a picnic area & later the Toronto School Board had a summer camp for Consumptives..TB.Most old Beacher's are not happy with the amound of money spent on the ornate buildings produced Fond memories..

This was probably THE BEST place to toboggan! I remember daringly going down the east hill one day, and that sled went so fast that I ended up stopping only about 3 feet away from the Humber River, which had not yet frozen over. Scary stuff, actually. One of my many childhood 'encounters' at the Humber River over the years. Judging by the accompanying picture, they sure don't build water treatment plants like that anymore! Yes, be sure to check out the BIG HILL at the rear of the plant. A great spot to watch the Airshow also.

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