5 things you didn't know were underground in Toronto

5 things you didn't know were underground in Toronto

underground TorontoThere's more underground in Toronto than just the PATH, the subway, and the sewers. In fact, there's everything from solid gold to rotting garbage hidden beneath our feet, you just have to look for the clues. For urban explorers and believers in urban legend, the subterranean world is a happy hunting ground. Abandoned subway stations and disused tunnels make for great photographs, and even better stories (who can forget the one about the secret alien city or the bizarre Tunnel Monster of Cabbagetown.)

Here are 5 (real) things you didn't know were underground in Toronto.

Gold bullion
Far below Scotia Plaza, in what is the deepest excavated basement in the city, lies a high security bullion vault, the only of its kind in Canada. Few people outside the bank are sure quite how much precious metal is stored down there (visits by reporters are no welcome,) but ScotiaMocatta, the bank's gold bullion division, accepts deposits at Scotia Plaza. You know, for people who carry around solid bars of gold.

Cities like Toronto produce tonnes of garbage every single day. Thanks to recycling and composting efforts, a decent amount of the stuff we throw out is diverted from landfill sites, though a troubling amount of waste still ends up being stuffed into the ground. In Toronto, numerous parks have been built on the top of old landfills, including parts of Riverdale Park, which was active as a garbage dump for one year in 1960. The site of the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre on Morningside Ave. was also once a garbage dump. Look for the tell-tale green pipes that act as methane vents.

Sir. Winston Churchill Park at St. Clair and Spadina hides a secret beneath its massive lawn. A massive and visually impressive reservoir, built during the 33-year term of R. C. Harris, Toronto's best-known commissioner of public works, supplies a large portion of downtown with clean, crisp drinking water. Just to the east, the Rosehill Reservoir is also located underground. That giant tank was completed in 1874 and currently has a capacity of around 53 million gallons. There are a total of 10 underground reservoirs serving Toronto.

Enwave tunnels
District heating company Enwave uses a network of tunnels beneath city streets (and the lake) to provide heating to buildings in the downtown core and as far north as Queen's Park. The tunnels aren't as well known as sewers and subway tunnels, but urban explorer Michael Cook has ventured inside and published extensive photographs on his site, Vanishing Point. Many of the most recent tunnels, excavated and bored in secrecy, date from between 1998 and 2004. Look for steaming drain covers.

Private bowling alleys
Back in the days when churches doubled as community centres, many congregations set up theatres, gyms, and bowling alleys for the enjoyment of parishioners. Eastminster United Church on the Danforth has its own basement bowling alley that dates from 1924, so too does Knox Presbyterian Church at Spadina and Harbord. Knox's alley was revealed to the public during Doors Open last year. Both remain in use by "holy rollers" to this day.

Bonus: A Cold War control bunker
Canada wasn't quite as twitchy as the United States during the Cold War, but living in close proximity (in nuke terms) to potential targets like Detroit and Buffalo caused all levels of government to consider various measures to protect the public from hazardous fallout. The subway was studied as potential mass storage area, but perhaps the coolest piece of infrastructure was built outside Toronto in Aurora in 1962.

The Metropolitan Toronto Emergency Preparedness Centre, a concrete, cinderblock, and steel bunker hidden beneath a rural farmhouse in Aurora, was supposed to become a coordination centre in the event of a disaster that never came. Happily, it still exists relatively intact.

Posted by Chris Bateman / NOVEMBER 21, 2014


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