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Ontario's DOORS OPEN Celebrations Expanding

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 21 May 2002 00:00

Are there out-of-bounds government and historic buildings in your community that you'd love to get inside? Citizens of Toronto , Ottawa , Port Hope , New Liskeard and a growing list of Ontario municipalities will be able to satisfy their curiosity when their community celebrates Doors Open Ontario during 2002.

Toronto was the first North American city to host this popular European event dedicated to heritage, architecture and design. Doors Open Toronto, originally developed as a millennium project, attracted over 70,000 visitors to 96 City buildings in its first year and, since 2000, has drawn over 150,000 people.

Doors Open events are FREE day long or weekend celebrations of architectural heritage designed to help residents appreciate the rich history of their community. Buildings dating back as far as the War of 1812, elaborate Victorian landmarks, twentieth-century skyscrapers and post-war architectural innovations are among those open to the public.

Since Canadian laws do not strongly support the preservation of our history, Doors Open is an important step towards educating individual citizens on the importance of early buildings in even the most modern city. As Ontario's real estate values climb and available land becomes increasingly scarce, heritage sites are eyed as prime development sites. The personal involvement felt by those who visit these buildings may be all that preserves their essential contribution to the community.

Glasgow , Scotland was the first city to launch Doors Open over a decade ago. The movement grew so that by 1998, 19 million visitors entered 28,000 buildings in 44 countries. This September, European Heritage Days will be celebrated across the United Kingdom. Sydney, Australia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil also have Doors Open programs.

Building on Toronto's success, the Ontario Heritage Foundation , a nonprofit government agency dedicated to preserving and promoting Ontario's rich heritage, launched Doors Open Ontario in April 2002, giving the public access to heritage homes, commercial buildings, courthouses, churches, heritage gardens and natural heritage sites across Ontario. Doors Open events will run into October in more than 17 cities, towns and community clusters, from Cobalt to Niagara and Windsor to Brockville.

The third annual Doors Open Toronto takes place during the last weekend in May -- this year, Saturday, May 25 and Sunday 26, 2002 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Doors Open Toronto: Illuminating The City's Great Spaces , the new 304-page companion guide by former Toronto mayor John Sewell, may enrich the experience further.

Each of the 123 architecturally or historically significant buildings – many of them not normally open to the public -- has a different viewing schedule during that weekend, but no pre-registration or tickets are required. Look for the blue Doors Open Toronto banners at national historic sites, places of worship, banking halls, hotels, theatres, historic transportation hubs, museums, mansions, private clubs, concert halls, offices of Toronto's top architects and at hidden gems throughout the city.

For more on one Toronto site -- Fool's Paradise, home of artist Doris McCarthy -- revisit my July 27, 1999 article "Artist Leaves Live-in Legacy ." This enchanting Scarborough Bluffs property has been the artist's home and studio since 1940 and, although she has given it to the Ontario Heritage Foundation, it will continue to be so for the rest of her life.

Discover any of this year's Ontario Doors Open communities from the inside out – you don't have to be a resident to join in.

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PJ Wade

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