The Castle – Glengrove Substation

Friday, December 29, 2017

Electrical power came to Toronto in 1910 and the network for distribution was born.  Power generated at Niagara Falls was brought to the city on high tension transmission lines.  It had to be converted to currents that could be used by the average consumer but nobody wanted the large sets of transformers, wires and resistors next door for their children to play in.  Toronto Hydro decided to hide them and several designs were developed that allowed the substations to blend in.  In March 2016 we checked out the abandoned Transformer House on Bayview Avenue beside Sunnybrook Hospital.  There were over 250 of these built but perhaps the most elaborate was built in 1930 in North Toronto.  This is the front door to the Glengrove Substation that has become known as The Castle.

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The date plate stands on the right side of the front door.

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The windows and rough-cut stone architecture give the substation the appearance of a castle that could be found on the moors of England.

 

The windows on the building come to life at night when the interior lighting switches on.

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On the Glengrove side of the building, there is a very tall set of oak doors with the appearance of a drawbridge.  These doors allow the installation and repair of the large transformers inside.

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Two major construction projects were going on at the same time that The Castle was being built that had an obvious influence on the design and construction materials used for the sub-station.  In November 1926 a new parish was opened to serve the Catholics in the expanding area of North Toronto.  In the spring of 1929 construction began on their new church building with the first services being held on June 1, 1930.  The rough cut stone and Gothic Revival arch doorways are dominant on both buildings.

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The Presbyterian church had been meeting in Eglinton, later renamed North Toronto, since 1860.  In 1929 they moved into their new building kitty-corner across Yonge Street from the sub-station.

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A different example of disguised transformer buildings can be seen in the Entertainment District downtown.  The corner of Duncan Street and Nelson Street was home to factories and warehouses in 1910 when the sub-station D was built.  Therefore it looks like a typical factory building of the era and is one of the original buildings in the distribution system.

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The transformer house on Bayview Avenue near Sunnybrook Hospital was designed to look like one of the hospital outbuildings.  It has now been abandoned and is in serious decay.  The story of the Bayview Transformer House can be read in greater detail with additional pictures at the link above.

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Google Maps Link: Glengrove Substation

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