Attractions open doors across Ontario

The monumental Church of Our Lady Immaculate can be toured during Doors Open Guelph. (Handout)

The monumental Church of Our Lady Immaculate can be toured during Doors Open Guelph. (Handout)

JIM FOX, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:17 PM ET

It was 200 years ago that Canada and the British Empire were at war with the Americans.

The War of 1812 is to be commemorated during Doors Open Ontario 2012, the popular annual heritage touring program.

“Defending a Nation" is the theme that will unlock the doors to a “diverse range of defence-related sites” including battlefields, military fortifications, armouries, armament-manufacturing facilities, legion halls, commemorative monuments and peace gardens.

Communities are being encouraged to “unveil their stories behind the war and the defence of our fledgling nation,” said Thomas H.B. Symons, who chairs the sponsoring Ontario Heritage Trust.

Several events, including those in Brant and Middlesex, will offer War of 1812 battle re-enactments to mark the bicentennial, while Niagara has many prime war locations open to tour. 

Taking a peek

For the past 11 years, people have been able to take a peek behind what are often doors closed to the public.

Once again this year, the Doors Open season kicks off in Guelph on April 28, with 57 events across the province through October.

Hundreds of historic buildings, places of worship, private homes, industrial areas and heritage gardens are included.

Many participating sites offer special activities, such as tours, exhibitions and demonstrations, all free of charge.

Five new communities have joined this year: Algonquin Highlands, Georgian Bay, Halton Hills, Lambton County and Quinte West.

With this year’s event, there will have been more than 4.5-million visits to 5,000 sites across the province.

Trails Open Ontario is part of the program, offering the chance to explore walking, hiking and cycling trails. 

Check these out

Jennifer Jarvis of the Ontario Heritage Trust said among the highlights to explore this year are:

- The British Methodist Episcopal Church, built in the 1880s as the Underground Railroad Church of Guelph, one of the few surviving terminals for slaves in southern Ontario (Guelph).

- Coniaurum-Goldcorp Reclamation Site, a project that has converted a gold mine into pristine meadows (Timmins).

- Research Casting International, a facility dedicated to preserving the world's rarest and most-valuable paleontological specimens (Quinte West).

- Ontario's last remaining log chute, originally built in 1861 and restored in 2005 (Algonquin Highlands).

- Hungry Hollow Trail, winding through a provincially significant wetland, providing habitat for 454 plant and 134 fauna species (Halton Hills).

- Nemo Hall, an 1870’s mansion complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, five fireplaces and gargoyles (Lambton County). 

“Royal City” rocks

Check out the many limestone buildings including the impressive Church of Our Lady Immaculate, the most visible and recognizable symbol of Guelph's architectural heritage.

At Doors Open on April 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors can tour the elegant structure that has many elements of traditional European cathedrals and fine exterior stone carvings.

There are 10 featured locations including the new civic museum, Underground Railroad Church and several University of Guelph sites including the Ontario Veterinary College, said Sonya Poweska of the Guelph Arts Council.

As well, there are Trails Open guided hikes at Smith Tract Sidefalls led by the Guelph Hiking Club.

This is where the electrified Toronto Suburban Railway once ran and touches the edges of the Eramosa River.

There will be stops at a dramatic lookout over the glacial Guelph Spillway, all through cedar forest and pine plantations. www.guelpharts.ca/doorsopenguelph; (519) 836-3280 

Upcoming

Doors Open events next month are in Whitby, May 5; Hamilton, May 5,6; Richmond Hill, May 12; Brockville-Thousand Islands, Kincardine and Toronto, May 26, 27.

June gets busy with Stratford and Whitchurch-Stouffville, June 2; Huronia, Ottawa and Owen Sound, June 2,3; Smiths Falls, June 3; Clarington, June 9; Burlington, June 9,10; Niagara (Ontario and New York State), June 15,17; Georgian Bay, June 16; Fergus-Elora and Kingston, June 23; and Muskoka, June 23,24.

London’s event is Sept. 29 and 30 along with Chatham-Kent, Lambton County, Middlesex, St. Thomas and Windsor, while East Elgin and Oxford are on Sept. 22. 

If you go:

The Doors Open Ontario website has all the details at www.doorsopenontario.on.ca

Printed guidebooks are available at Ontario tourism centres and by calling 1-800-ONTARIO (668-2746). 

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