Why I Love Toronto
Top 10 Doors Open Toronto Venues
Aside from getting some colour this weekend, I participated in Doors Open Toronto 2014. This year I chose to focus on Old Town Toronto, the core and the west end. I have to say that putting together a top 10 list of the buildings I saw was pretty difficult, especially trying to figure out the top 2. I debated back and forth which building would get the coveted title of “My Favourite Doors Open Toronto Building 2014,” and alas I have made a decision. The following list will give you a brief glimpse into what I saw last weekend. Expect full posts to come soon!
1. Artscape Youngplace
This was by far the best Doors Open Toronto venue in 2014. This new addition to the Doors Open Toronto list, just reopened to the public late last year. The Shaw Street School, which is now Artscape Youngplace, was shut down in 2000, after the ratio of students to the square footage did not meet the TDSB’s requirements. The school which opened in 1914, meaning this year is the buildings 100th birthday, had opened during the First World War meaning its facilities were used to help the war effort. It eventually welcomed students into the facility.
The tour was phenomenal and we learned a lot about the school and its history. We traveled to the basement where the bathrooms used to be for both boys and girls and to the boiler room where children used to play pranks. We learned about Shaw Street School’s rich athletic history and even learned that the hallways were used for track and field training in the winter.
Today it is an art hub and the classrooms have been turned into galleries. So awesome things to notice include the clock wall which features old clocks from the classrooms. Each clock is stopped at 8:32 to represent the time when the school stopped being a school. The former athletic flags are a throwback, the stairwells have been transformed into works of art, there is a café you’ll be seeing me at and multiple art installations. This building was just a treat to explore. Lastly, parts of Mean Girls was shot here.
2. Bank of Upper Canada
This building next to Toronto’s First Post Office really did surprise me. I was expecting to go into a museum showcasing the history of Upper Canada, but to my surprise this National Historic Site of Canada had been taken over by a design company specializing in web and mobile properties called myplanet.
The building was beautiful fusion of old and modern. The doors and windows had these amazing iron latches which would barricade the doors and windows in the event of rebellion. The elevator, which is supposedly haunted, is stunning from a first floor perspective, as is the exposed brick. The old fused with the modern slick look of myplanet fits perfectly with the space.
On a side note the myplanet offices were super cool with game consoles, a jam out session area with instruments and two beers on tap. I was left saying sign me up for a job!
3. Historic Don Jail
I honestly thought this would be my number one building, but the two above pushed this stunning piece of architecture to third. I finally got to see the jail after a failed attempt last year. It was truly a stunning building and we got to see the tiny jail cells which could fit up to three people, the segregation room which was like solitary confinement, the gallows where capital punishment occurred and that stunning rotunda whose balconies where supported by dragons meant to judge the inmates. It was eerie walking through the halls in which murderers once did, but it was also really cool.
4. St. Andrew’s Church
I always wanted to explore this building since its restoration and I finally got to. It was a beautiful church, but what was really amazing was when the organist decided to put on a show for us. Sitting right behind him I got to observe how an organ actually is played.
5 Parkdale Collegiate Institute
This high school is the second oldest in Toronto and just turned 125 this year. I decided to go check it out because my father attended the school when he was a teenager. It was so bizarre seeing my father’s name on the wall of the auditorium, but he left his mark on the high school. I got to explore the massive two floor auditorium, the original library in room 225, the war memorial and my favourite, the gym which had a suspended track. Also the archive room was such a treat to visit. With a stained glass window that said PCI the room was filled with boxes of photographs, yearbooks, football helmets (maybe the same my football star uncle wore) and a letterman jacket which I hope to inherit from my father one day, even though I never attended the school.
6. The Theatre Centre
This theatre which recently opened in March was once home to the Parkdale Library Branch. Today it is a theatre space with two main performance areas. The incubator where ideas are born and smaller productions are performed and the main theatre which is in the heart of the buildings entrance way. There was not much to see, but it was amazing to see the space as a performance venue.
7. The Great Hall
I have been here for semi-formals and concerts, but it has always been so dark I never could appreciate the building. I got to explore the second floor and some random rooms which would be perfect spaces for party venues. It truly was a stunning building to see while sober.
8. Moose Factory
This modern day home has always caught my attention, but until Doors Open Toronto I never knew it was a gallery as well. We got to explore the gallery and check out the works of the artist, including my favoruite featuring Rob Ford (I will post on Instagram). The tour also took you to the artists living quarters and wonderful rooftop patio.
9. Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
When we arrived there was a confusing line to get into the building and even at 3:30pm the Doors Open Toronto volunteer couldn’t guarantee we’d get in even though there was an hour and a half left. I got to take a peek inside the tower which was great, but it would have been nice to head up.
Doors Open Toronto this lighthouse should be on the list next year, but please consider that we have to pay for ferry transportation and there are only two venues on the island to visit, meaning most people are not going to spend their $7 worth of transportation on the island when so many other venues are open on the mainland. It would be great to have volunteers at the docks near the end of the day to notify you of whether or not you’d be getting into the venue so that you could decide whether to spend the money on a ferry ride or not.
10. MaRS Discovery Centre
This was an utter disappointment as I would have loved to have explored the old portion of the building as opposed to the new. Whenever I pass by I always see this beautiful dome that has doors facing in each direction. It would have been great to explore that portion and just the old building in general. Take note for next year.