Exploring Guelph’s Rich Heritage: Doors Open Guelph and Doors Open After Dark

Written by GAC staff

Guelph’s vibrant community was on full display during the recent Doors Open After Dark and Doors Open Guelph events held on April 26 and 27, 2024. These celebrations offered a unique opportunity for visitors to delve into the city’s architectural, historical, and cultural treasures.

During Doors Open After Dark at the Guelph Civic Museum, visitors had the chance to engage in interactive experiences, such as intuitive rune stone readings and collaborative art projects like Roxanna’s community artwork, and more, fostering a sense of connection and creativity. Guided tours led by museum employees provided insights into Guelph’s past and the origins of some of the museum’s collections.

The Fourth Friday performer, Preetam Sengupta, fostered a sense of belonging among the crowd, transforming strangers into friends. As he strummed his guitar and sang, the melodies evoked a warm nostalgia, weaving a tapestry of shared memories and experiences. The songs resonated with the audience and encapsulated the theme of community connections that defined the night.

“Dot by Dot, We Unite” was a community art project led by local artist Roxanna Bahrami, where a bench symbolizing rest and reflection served as the canvas. Community members added paint dots, each building off one another’s designs, to create a collective work of community creativity.

During Doors Open Guelph on Saturday, participants enjoyed free guided tours of some of the city’s most significant sites. From Guelph City Hall, with its rich symbolism and sustainable design, to the Guelph Black Heritage Society’s Heritage Hall, Guelph City Greenhouse, and others, each location told a compelling story with rich local history.

Starting the day off in the Guelph City Greenhouse located in Riverside Park, visitors got to see the plan for this year’s floral clock and Blossom Express train. 

The tour of Guelph City Hall showcased various parts of the building, starting with the newly renovated Council Chambers, which are now fully accessible with walnut finishes for better acoustics. Moving on to the fourth floor, visitors caught a glimpse of the pollinator-friendly green roof, one of the many eco-friendly features that classify City Hall as a green building. Additionally, tour participants had the opportunity to see the mayor’s office during their visit.

A quick stop at the Guelph Masonic Centre located between Quebec Street and Chapel Lane downtown revealed no secrets but did showcase the beautiful limestone building that has been home to the Guelph Masonic Lodge since 1914. 

A visit to Heritage Hall marked the final destination of the day. Formerly a British Methodist Episcopal Church constructed in 1880 by previously enslaved Black individuals and their descendants who arrived in the area through the Underground Railroad, the building was purchased by the Guelph Black Heritage Society in 2012. Visitors learned about the renovations undertaken as part of the “Freedom Project,” overseen by architect Joel Bartlett, which made the building accessible. Additionally, they learned about the addition of the Flora Francis Memorial Library into the site.

In summary, Doors Open Guelph and Doors Open After Dark provided a memorable experience, celebrating Guelph’s rich heritage and fostering a sense of community and connection among its residents and visitors.

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