Toronto Hydro Homes

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.

Toronto Hydro

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.

Toronto Hydro Lines

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

555 Spadina Road

2833 Yonge Street

Toronto Hydro Substation

Toronto Hydro Substation

386 Eglinton Avenue East

Toronto Hydro Home

51 Blackburn Road

Toronto Hydro Substation

29 Nelson Street

Toronto Hydro Substation

Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in City

Police confirm 9 dead after Toronto van attack

Toronto attack forces major TTC and GO Transit closures

Van attacks pedestrians near Yonge and Finch in Toronto

Toronto is getting more than a thousand new TTC buses

TTC finally did something to stop cars from entering streetcar tunnel

This is what the TTC buses of the future might look like

Toronto cafes under pressure to stop using black coffee cup lids

Someone just recreated the lost buildings of Toronto