Toronto Hydro's not-so-hidden residential substations
I first learned that Toronto had a series of camouflaged electric substations when I was about 12-years-old. I lived near Yonge and Davisville at the the time, and would often explore the surrounding area by bike. On one such trip, a friend who was a few years older took me to 640 Millwood Road.
"What do you think that is?" he asked.
"Someone's house," I replied somewhat indignantly.
But, as he was quick to explain, this wasn't really a house at all. Instead, what appears to be a residence is in fact one of Toronto Hydro's over 250 substations. Scattered across the city, some of these "transformer homes" are easily identified (some even have large signs), while others are more difficult to spot as impostors.
After my first visit to 640 Millwood, I mostly forgot about them until I started reading Cabinet Magazine. Having ordered a bunch of back issues, I was intrigued to find that in their Spring 2006 offering titled "Electricty," Toronto-based photographer Robin Collyer featured some of the work that he'd done documenting transformer homes.
Remembering my past discovery, I set out to find a few more of these urban anomalies. Along the way, I even ran across an old blogTO article on them. But it was actually a comment thread on a BLDGBLOG post and a Globe and Mail article archived on Urban Toronto that proved most fruitful in terms of trying to pin down a few more locations.
With a list of probable transformer homes and the addresses of a few sure things, I spent an evening shooting as many as I could fit in. The photos below, however, only brush the surface of this subject. As such, over the next month or so, I hope to continue to track down and photograph many of the substations located in Scarborough, Etobicoke and Willowdale.
Collyer's work on transformer homes was done in the late 1980s, and since so much of the landscape has changed since then, I figure it's a good time to follow up on his fascinating project.
555 Spadina Road
2833 Yonge Street
386 Eglinton Avenue East
51 Blackburn Road
29 Nelson Street