TORONTO – Doors Open is a gateway to Toronto’s past, but also channels the city’s development and transformation since infancy. Over the course of one weekend, Torontonians and visitors alike can experience Toronto through its architectural gems.

This year’s event – running May 25-26 — features 167 buildings that showcase the city’s history, culture, creativity and modernization. Some of the buildings include heritage-designated landmarks, places of worship, factories, historic homes and hotels, and arts institutions.

The program allows visitors to tour through buildings that are normally not open to the public, or places that would charge an entrance fee.

Not all facilities are open both days. Click here for a full list of locations, dates and times.

This year’s theme is “creators, makers and innovators” — buildings that have been transformed into modern spaces, while keeping their history in-check.

“Buildings and sites that bring together all kind of creative makers, and Toronto is one of the most innovative cities in the world, so we want to celebrate that,” said Kerri MacDonald, programming supervisor of special events at the City of Toronto.

“[It] gives them a chance to see sites they may have never been able to see before — some of which only open their doors during Doors Open,” MacDonald said.

Two of the event’s highlights this year are its walking tours — 14 of them in total — and a series of talks with architects, designers and community leaders.

“We’re talking about the architecture of Toronto, with reference to its future and of course its past, because we never want to let go of the past as we’re moving into the future,” she said.

One of the top sites to visit, according to MacDonald, is the Bridgepoint Health Centre in East York, which used to be the old Don Jail in Riverdale. The complex was built in 1864, but has since been re-invented as a health care centre.

They’ve taken that original historic architecture and they’ve renovated it to become the administration wing of their hospital, and they’ve actually preserved three of the old jail cells at the bottom of that building. I think that building is going to be really fascinating to see,” MacDonald said.

Along with Bridgepoint, another new addition to this year’s event is the headquarters of Toronto Emergency Medical Services headquarters in North York. The facility, which is normally not open to the public, is from where personnel respond to around 800 emergency calls per day.

in North York. The facility, which is normally not open to the public, is from where personnel respond to around 800 emergency calls per day.

“They’re going to actually bring small groups of people in to the room that people call in their 911 calls.”

Also, for those who want to check out a busy newsroom and television studio, be sure to stop by Rogers Studios at Yonge-Dundas Square. The five-storey building, built in 2004, is home to CityNews, City’s “Breakfast Television,” CityNews Channel, Cityline, and OMNI Television.

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What’s your interest?

Whether its history, culture, arts or modernity, below is a selection of buildings this year’s event:

TTC Bay Lower Subway Station
*Open May 25

The station first opened in 1966 as a way to interline the Bloor-Danforth line with the Yonge-University line, thus allowing trains to run along three routes. After a six-month testing period, the TTC deemed two routes as the best option. The station is now used to film movies and commercials.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Toronto Fire Station 227
*Open May 25-26

Known for its grand clock tower, this fire station has been serving the Beach area since 1906. It’s designed in a Dutch-Flemish Renaissance style with a single main door leading to the apparatus floor.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Ontario Legislative Building
*Open May 25-26

Home to Ontario’s Legislative Assembly, Queen’s Park – built in a Richardsonian Romanesque style — opened in 1893. Part of the tour includes the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite, not normally open to the public.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

401 Richmond Street West
*Open May 25-26

Originally constructed in 1899 for the Macdonald Manufacturing Company, this heritage-designated building operated as a tin factory and metal packaging plant until 1967. The building was on the verge of being torn down, but has since been restored, and now houses over 140 artists, galleries, designers, shops, and a green square-foot roof garden.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Canadian Music Centre (Chalmers House)
*Open May 25

This heritage-designated building was constructed in 1892 for the Arthur Symonds family, and has been home to CMC since 1982. In 1983, it was dedicated as Chalmers House to pay tribute to Floyd Chalmer’s contributions to Canadian music.  Although the building’s interior was renovated twice, it’s retained some of the original features, including wood and brick work, stained glass and fireplaces.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

City of Toronto Archives
*Open May 25

The City of Toronto Archives, designed by Zeidler Roberts Partnership, opened in January 1992, and houses documented details of the city’s history. It features a climate-controlled storage area, a pink terrazzo staircase, and a sky-lit research hall. You can even research the history of your home.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Enoch Turner Schoolhouse
*Open May 25-26

This one-room schoolhouse in Corktown was built in 1848 on land donated by the nearby Little Trinity Church. Local businessman Enoch Turner, who wanted to provide a place of education for the neighbourhood children, funded the building of the school. It was the first free school in Toronto and the oldest one that remains standing in the city.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Fool’s Paradise
*Open May 25-26

Located on Scarborough Bluffs, it’s the former home of Canadian artist Doris McCarthy. She bought the 12-acre property in 1939. The name “Fool’s Paradise” comes from McCarthy’s mother, who called it “that fool’s paradise of yours” — making reference to what she thought was an indulgent purchase.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Gladstone Hotel
*Open May 25-26

Built in 1889, the Gladstone Hotel is the oldest “continuously operating” hotel in Toronto. The hotel was designed with rough-cut stone and brick. It was once a favourite resting spot for musicians. The Ziedler family restored the hotel in 2005, and local artists have designed the hotel rooms.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Mackenzie House
*Open May 25-26

Mackenzie House — a Greek revival row house — was the home of Toronto’s first mayor, Lyon Mackenzie, who lived there from 1859 to 1871. It now also houses a museum, featuring a mid-19th century print shop.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Osgoode Hall
*Open May 25-26

First opened in 1832, Osgoode Hall is known for its majestic gates, geometric tile floor in the atrium and 19th century courtrooms. Visitors can have their photo taken in legal robes in one of the courtrooms.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

John St. Roundhouse (Steam Whistle Brewing)
*Open May 25-26

The roundhouse was built in 1923 and originally serviced over 50 trains a day from Union station. It closed in 1988, but has been home to Steam Whistle Brewing since 1999. The space features catwalks, exposed brick, and a 30-foot vaulted interior.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

New additions

Below are some other new offerings at Doors open this year:

Creating Toronto: The story of the city in 10 stops
*Open May 25-26

Every city has a story. Explore the history of Toronto in 10 stops during a 90-minute guided walking tour. Learn about the origins of city’s grid street system, the area’s earliest human inhabitants, Toronto’s railways, and more.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Miller Lash House
*Open May 26

Situated on the grounds of the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, this idyllic house was the summer retreat of Toronto lawyer Miller Lash and his family. It was built using river stone from the Highland Creek bed and is surrounded by picturesque gardens.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Munk School of Global Affairs
*Open May 25-26

Built in 1909, the Romanesque Revival building — located on the grounds of the University of Toronto’s downtown campus — was home to a 24-hour weather service that operated from the observatory tower. The tower was used to train pilots on weather patterns during the Second World War. Recently renovated, the building now serves as an international affairs hub.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Toronto Carpet Factory
*Open May 25-26

The Toronto Carpet Manufacturing Company Ltd. moved into this building in 1899, which along with its laneways and courtyards, takes up a full city block. The building is built in a classic 19th-century style with wooden columns and beams, and hardwood floors.

Click here for more details and exhibit times.

Related links

Click here for a list of buildings open on May 25.

Click here for a list of buildings open on May 26.

Click here for a map of buildings.

Click here for more information on the speaker series.