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Doors Open Toronto

Held in many cities across Canada, Doors Open is an event that invites people to learn more about their local heritage. During the May 28-29 2011 weekend in Toronto, the doors will be open for you, and this year's line-up is packed with historic places, all free of charge!

Since beginning in 2000, Doors Open Toronto has been opening doors to many wonderful places and is increasing the number of participating places each year. The success of the event inspired the Ontario Heritage Trust to launch Doors Open Ontario, which motivated other towns to follow this great idea and let people experience what is usually behind closed doors.

On the tour, there is something for everyone! From churches to schools, forts, and Fort York, City of Toronto / Fort York, ville de Torontolibraries, Toronto is opening doors on many heritage places. Here are only a few examples of buildings open to the public this year:

Fort York National Historic Site of Canada is one of the most famous historic places in Toronto. Rebuilt in 1813 after the original fort was destroyed during the war of 1812, it is where Toronto began as a settlement. Founded by Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada Sir John Graves Simcoe as a defence site, it is now a national historic site operated by the City of Toronto which includes many intact buildings dating from the War of 1812. Offering special tours and demonstrations, Fort York is definitely a crowd pleaser for all ages! Gooderham Building, Ontario Heritage Trust / Édifice Gooderham, Fiducie du patrimoine ontarien

Toronto's most photographed building, the Gooderham Building, is also on the Doors Open list. Sporting a unique "flatiron" shape, this building was constructed in 1891 as an office for George Gooderham, owner of Gooderham and Worts distillery. As head of the distillery, director of the Bank of Toronto and president of the Manufacturer's Life Insurance Company, Gooderham would become the wealthiest man in Ontario at the time of his death in 1905. Decorated in a fashion that would match a rich man's pocket, the Gooderham Building's open home is an opportunity you can't miss.

At the John Street Roundhouse (Canadian Pacific) National Historic Site of Canada, toursJohn Street Roundhouse, Parks Canada / la Rotonde-de-la-Rue-John, Parcs Canada are offered of the roundhouse as well of the Steam Whistle Brewing factory. This complex was built from 1929 to 1931 and is the best surviving example of a roundhouse in Canada. Operating until 1986, this 32-stall roundhouse was used to clean and repair passenger locomotives until the introduction of diesel fuel reduced the need for this service. The roundhouse has been taken over by the Toronto Railway Historical Association where this group actively preserves this historic building. In 1999, the appropriately named Steam Whistle Brewing Company was established on site and has opened its doors to the public for the weekend since 2000.

If you are a fan of the performing arts, visit the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre.  This theatre displays a unique, still operating, "double-decker" theatre design that is the last of its kind in Canada. Built in 1913, Elgin Theatre, Ontario Heritage Trust / Théâtres Elgin, Fiducie du patrimoine ontarienthe Elgin theatre was designed to show silent films, but has changed and adapted over the decades. The Winter Garden, on the other hand, was closed in 1928 and was left untouched for almost 50 years, thus protecting its unique garden scenery and canopy ceiling of leaves. Tours of the building are offered and give a more in-depth historic account.

If politics and architecture are your interests, the Old City Hall and York County Court House National Historic Site of Canada will certainly be a stop on your list! This magnificent building of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture took ten years to complete with construction starting in 1889 and ending in 1899. At a cost of $2.5 million, it was the largest building in Toronto at the time of completion. Serving as the 3rd city hall in Toronto and as a court house, this was the centre of town activities until 1965 when a new City Hall was constructed across the street. The building is now offices for the provincial Justice Department. Saved from demolition many times in the last half century, it is now protected as a national historic site. When you visit, there is an exhibition on the protection of this important landmark on the first floor.

During Doors Open Toronto, it would be a great idea to visit the lavish George George Brown House, Parks Canada / Maison George Brown, Parcs CanadaBrown House because it usually is not open to the public! Built from 1874 to 1876, the house was home to George Brown, one of the Fathers of Confederation and founder of the Globe (now the Globe and Mail). This Second Empire residence has recently been rehabilitated by the Ontario Heritage Trust and now features a luxurious library containing more than 2,000 books that once belonged to Mr. Brown. The house currently is used as office space and a conference center. Visit this important part of our Canadian heritage through a self-guided tour and ask your questions to on-site staff.

Stop by these historic places and many others that have opened their doors to the public on the May 28 weekend to learn more about the impact these places had on Toronto's heritage and their role in Canadian history.

Visit the official Doors Open Toronto web site for more information and see the full list of participating buildings: http://www.toronto.ca/doorsopen/index.htm