DoorsOpen 20 Design by Gareth Lind small

By Barbara Salsberg Mathews

You can open some new doors and discover our fine city on April 25, 2020, from 10 am to 4 pm during Doors Open Guelph. This popular event celebrates Guelph’s finest buildings and historically or architecturally relevant sites. Heritage advocate and site coordinator Susan Ratcliffe says Doors Open fulfills the “nosey factor,” allowing people to see inside buildings not normally open to the public.

Poster design by Gareth Lind

Doors Open Guelph is the first of 36 Doors Open Ontario events every year, which showcase 900 different sites across the province. This year’s theme is Environment. Doors Open Guelph is one of the few events that is run by an arts council, not the municipality.

“We started participating in this event in 2002, always holding our Doors Open in April, closest to Guelph’s birthday,” Ratcliffe says. “With free guided tours, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about local history. Inviting the public inside these places can also be a boost to businesses.”

Ratcliffe describes some of the highlights for 2020:

  • The Gryphon Football Pavilion under the stadium at the University of Guelph was built for football players by a donor. It is stunning. The building has amazing graphics and an outstanding original stained-glass Gryphon. Football players will lead the tours and there will be special treats and giveaways. Bring the kids!
  • Across the road from there, the University of Guelph’s President’s House has a beautiful collection of Canadian art and furniture that was gathered by Gordon Couling, who founded Guelph’s walking tours and gathered much of the art collection in the Art Gallery of Guelph.
  • The Hammond Radio Museum is a little-known Guelph treasure that features a collection of more than 2,000 radios, tubes, and advertisements. An operating ham radio station and recreation of a ship’s communication room are also fascinating.

Sometimes during Doors Open tours, a building’s past comes rushing into the present. Ratcliffe shares tales of encountering people who lived in that house or worked in that factory in the past. A previous event included Ker Cavan on Stuart Street and the coach house beside it where the gardener lived. On that tour, the grown children of the gardener showed up and shared stories of what it was like to live there and play on the grounds.

Doors Open Guelph holds a lot of importance to Ratcliffe: “In my heritage-advocacy self, I believe if people are aware of the stories behind heritage buildings, they are more likely to defend them if it comes to the point of people wanting to tear them down. Once they got to see inside the Petrie building for example, which had been a mystery for 40 years, they could see why it was worth saving. These buildings give Guelph its unique sense of place – the buildings that no other town has.”

This year’s event is organized in three zones, making it easy for visitors to see multiple sites:

Zone A – College Hill

The Gryphon Football Pavilion

The President’s House

Campus Co-op Commons

Zone B – South End

Sleeman Breweries Inc.

Hammond Radio Museum

Zone C – Downtown

The Bell Kennedy House

Bisson Dentistry

Hope House and Lakeside Downtown

The Junction


Doors Open 2020 will also offer opportunities to get active outdoors, with public art walks, trails, and cycling experiences to be announced, in partnership with Trails Open and Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation.

Doors Open After Dark launches the weekend on Friday night, celebrating Guelph’s 193rd birthday with big, bold, innovative history and art activations at and around the Civic Museum from 5 p.m. April 24 to 1 a.m. April 25. Also free!

Doors Open Guelph depends on hundreds of volunteers. Sign up to help out at your favourite site on April 25 now.

Learn more about #DOORSOPENGUELPH20 here.

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