Saturday, June 3, 2017

Doors Open 2017

So many sites to see at Toronto Doors Open this year. I love the opportunity to explore inside spaces you normally can't visit and learn more about the city and its history.

It was once a major jail in Toronto, but now the 152-year-old facility serves as a hospital administration building. The site of so many public executions, it's no wonder the Don Jail is the host to so many ghosts. The imprint of the gallows on the wall is testament to the public hangings, and the last execution in Canada. Although I've been meaning to visit for many years, this year's Open Doors finally brought me inside. All the walls are painted white and windows let in lots of light, but it's not so hard to imagine this place dark, dingy, and crawling with rats and cockroaches.

The Arts and Letters Club was on my list because we tried to gain entry a previous year, but they weren't 'open.' So, of course it made it all the more tantalizing!  The club's address has been 14 Elm since 1920, with past members including the Group of Seven, Frederick Banting, and Robertson Davies. A welcoming space! Although women weren't allowed until the mid-seventies, they now outnumber men. I''m tempted to join myself, and may drop in to the bar some night after work to find out more.

There were two highlights at the Masonic Temple for me. The first was the snooker table Mick Jagger had built on site when he stayed there four months in the 70's. The thing was too massive to fit through the door, so lives there still. The other highlight was a section of floor, with the masonic star and tiles of white and black - symbols of the Great Architect and the struggle against good and evil. I've been to a few concerts here, and always enjoyed the vibe, but didn't realize there was so much more here on the upper levels. The current inhabitant, a tech company opened it up for the day. Murals from previous tenants Much Music and CTV still colour the walls.

My niece Emma was baptised at St John's Church Norway, also known as St. John the Baptist Norway Anglican Church, but I haven't been back siince. We drive by the stately Kingston Road landmark frequently. Perched high on a hill, it becomes a metaphor for the humble to approach a state of grace as they climb upward. Beautiful stained glass windows on the interior, and lots of pale wood. Lovely to just sit and breathe.

We weren't really planning on stopping, but as we were driving by we noticed the Door's Open sign at Scarborough Arts. A walk was in progress, but just coming to an end; unfortunately we'd missed the tour of Birchcliffe murals. Rob started chatting to one of the artists. Berg turned out to be the original painter of the rainbow bridge - a much loved landmark in the Don Valley. He painted it as a memorial to a homeless person. He's done many of the murals in the area, some commissioned like the one on Iki Sushi, and others done simply for the cost of paint.

Fool's Paradise
was the home of artist Doris McCarthy. If I were an artist I would apply to become an artist in residence, a privilege granted 4 times each year through the Heritage Trust. An inspiring view at the top of the Scarborough Bluffs, there was nothing here when Doris bought her acres in the wilderness. Over time, she built it to suit herself - including small proportions for her 4'10" frame. She built a pond to reflect the changing sky and placed it outside her windows for constant view.

I visit the grounds of the R.C. Water Filtration Plant several times a year but have never been inside. What an impressive structure! Marble, steel and built to last. Functional, but with art deco flourishes. A few water fountains were placed throughout, and I couldn't pass without taking a drink of the fresh, cool water. There were also photos of R.C. Harris, I'd always pictured a bookish character, but there he was, all big and burly. His physical size must have been an asset as he pushed his projects through from idea to completion. A man with vision and insistence on investing in infrastructure for the future, I wish he could influence some at City Hall today.

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