by William Kendall @WilliamKendall1
Sometimes you pass by a building of significance, shut off to the public, and wonder what it would be like to step past those doors.
Doors Open is an opportunity that lets you do precisely that.
In the province of Ontario, from late April to early October each year, Doors Open Ontario presents events in cities and towns across the province, opening buildings to the public on a given date- buildings of historic and architectural interest. Some are churches, synagogues, mosques, or temples. Others are infrastructure related. Some are museums and galleries that might give the visitor a look at the archives or vaults. Others are working buildings usually closed to the public at large, such as government buildings with a particular drawing power, or diplomatic missions.
The idea has been around for years; while the provincial program is well established, there are Doors Open events in other Canadian provinces, and similar programs in the United States, such as Open House Chicago or Open House New York. And in Europe, a similar program across the continent dedicates itself to museums at night.
In Ontario, the program has caught on over time. Toronto and Ottawa are big sites for the event on their respective weekends, each featuring more than 100 sites open to public visits. Small towns have caught on as well, some featuring twenty odd places in their boundaries and opening them up for a day or two. Some counties or districts will shuffle locations each year- one township in that district might host it one year, another the next.
Ottawa’s Doors Open always takes place in early June. This year there were more than 160 sites open over the two days- completely impossible to catch every last one. The city runs a free shuttle bus that can connect up to around fifty of them, but realistically speaking, you’re only going to be able to catch so many, especially in a city of our geographic size- Ottawa might just have a population of 800 000 odd souls, but it ranges over urban and rural environments, and Doors Open Ottawa sites are all over that ground.
There are a multitude of places of worship, embassies, restaurants, government centers, sporting clubs, and other buildings to be visited. Some I get to each year. Others are new discoveries for me. This past year, getting into the Sir John A. Macdonald Building, a government conference building across from Parliament Hill, was a delight, and my first time inside. The former bank is only open to the public at large on a weekend like this, and it is a beauty inside. So is Earnscliffe- the present home of Britain’s top diplomat here, and the final home of Sir John himself- our first prime minister died there in his last residence.
Doors Open is the only time you can go in and have a look, and the place is popular each year.
Some places participate every year, or every other year. Others, a bit more sporadically, but each year, the offerings are good, coming to see historical buildings of personal significance. If you’ve got an interest in architecture and history, Doors Open is the ideal kind of weekend for you.
And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote!
William Kendall is a photoblogger who finds the unique perspective in everyday life. You can follow him on his writing blog, Speak Of The Devil, his photoblog Ottawa Daily Posts, and Twitter @WilliamKendall1.