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The Hearn: A History

The Hearn is located at 440 Unwin Avenue, in Toronto’s Port Lands area sitting majestically on a 10.5-hectare property. Its smokestack, at 705 ft. (215 m) tall, is a towering landmark, a proud memory of a bygone industrial era.

Apr 20, 2016

The R.L. Hearn Power Generating Station is one of Canada’s unique and most majestic industrial landmarks. Opened in October 1951, the Hearn was a coal-fired electrical plant until 1983 when it was converted to burn natural gas.

Hearn Generating Station
© 2004 Kendall Anderson. invisiblethreads.com

Located on a canal extended from Lake Ontario and on a major shipping route through the St. Lawrence Seaway, it ceased all operations in 1995. At the peak of the Hearn’s activity in the 1960s, the plant employed as many as 600 people.

Hearn Generating Station
Photo by Jonathan Castellino.

Though still owned by Ontario Power Generation (Province of Ontario), the Hearn has been under lease to Studios of America since 2002, serving as a location for major film and television productions such as the upcoming blockbuster Suicide Squad, 2015’s Robocop, Pacific Rim, RED, NBC Universal’s 12 Monkeys, Orphan Black and more.

Hearn Generating Station
Photo by Jonathan Castellino.

With a footprint of 27, 573 square metres (and 650,000 cubic metres of space inside), the Hearn is three times larger than the Tate Modern, the Statue of Liberty fits in it upright, and it dominates the Port Lands at the east end of Toronto’s spectacular waterfront.

The Hearn Generating Station sits on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe, and the Huron-Wendat nations.

Hearn Generating Station
© 2004 Kendall Anderson. invisiblethreads.com
The Port Lands is the same size as downtown Toronto, and only about five minutes away.

Waterfront Toronto is the main steward of the region and is implementing the largest urban revitalization project in North America. Much of the Port Lands region is at risk of flooding, so a central part of the plan for the region’s future is naturalizing the mouth of the Don River and providing flood protection.

Hearn Generating Station
© 2004 Kendall Anderson. invisiblethreads.com

From there, Waterfront Toronto envisions the development of new, liveable, mixed-use communities in the area. The Hearn appears in Waterfront Toronto’s plans for the region, but what new life the building will take on remains to be seen.

Hearn Generating Station
© 2004 Kendall Anderson. invisiblethreads.com

The Hearn Generating Station can be the cultural icon of the new millennium: an institution where ideas, art forms, artists and audiences are brought together to create new energy and ideas. With 17 days of programming under one roof, Luminato Festival will create an exceptionally rich and uniquely integrated global cultural experience.

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