Opening the Doors on Toronto
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Opening the Doors on Toronto

Every year, Doors Open Toronto lets Torontonians sneak looks at buildings they don't generally have access to. Here are some we're especially excited about this year.

Behind-the-scenes corners of the historic Bay building will be available for exploring this weekend. Photo by {a href=""}Metrix X{/a} from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

It’s one of our city’s best annual events: Doors Open Toronto, wherein we all get to explore the nooks, crannies, and usually hidden corners of buildings we generally can’t access. There are more than 135 buildings opening their doors this year, and among them are several dozen new ones that haven’t been on the list before.

Here are some highlights from that list—our picks for the best of the sites that are new to Doors Open, many of which are also therefore uncharted territory for all of us.

Islington Village

Photo by {a href=""}lakeguydreams{/a} from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Location: 4709 Dundas Street West
When to visit: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Why we’re excited: Out in Etobicoke, Doors Open also means open air. The Village of Islington BIA has put up several larger-than-life murals depicting local history in a five-block art walk along Dundas West between Islington and Kipling. The award-winning project hosts new murals every year and the fact that they’re on display on the sidewalk means there will be no lines to check them out. There are guided walking tours departing every hour and there is even an option to hop on a trolley. All of the tours depart from Montgomery Inn, a local community museum and one of the gems worth finding out west. (Rachel Lissner)

Fool’s Paradise
Architect: Forest Telfer and Doris McCarthy, 1940
Location: 1 Meadowcliffe Drive

When to visit: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Why we’re excited: Sometimes insults stick. When artist Doris McCarthy purchased a property along the Scarborough Bluffs in 1939, her mother called it “that fool’s paradise of yours.” McCarthy, who went on to become the first female president of the Ontario Society of Artists, used Fool’s Paradise as her home and studio until her death in 2010. She donated the property to the Ontario Heritage Trust for use as an artistic retreat and heritage site. Besides guided tours, visitors will be able to test their landscape-painting skills under the watchful eye of professional instructors. (Jamie Bradburn)

Revue Cinema

Photo by {a href=""}Time Share{/a} from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Architect: Unknown, 1912
Location: 400 Roncesvalles Avenue)
When to visit: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Why we’re excited: From 1912 until 2006, the Revue was Toronto’s longest continuously running movie theatre. Reopened as a non-profit community cinema in 2007 after a fundraising campaign, today the Revue offers an eclectic mix of programming, including educational lectures and silent movies. The cinema joins Doors Open as part of its 100th anniversary, and visitors will be offered tours of the theatre and its projection booth, and the chance to observe artifacts taken from the neighbourhood and the theatre (which had a stint as a German-language cinema). A mockumentary celebrating the Revue’s first century, The Big 1-0-0, will be shown throughout both days. (Jamie Bradburn)

Old Fire Hall—Complections College of Makeup Art & Design
Architect: David Roberts, 1886
Location: 110 Lombard Street
When to visit: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Why we’re excited: In the world of cosmetology, appearance is everything, and the Old Fire Hall recently got one of the best makeovers in downtown Toronto. Before the makeup school took over the space earlier this year, it was the original home of Second City, the comedy troupe that lit the fire under the careers of many Canadian greats—Lombard Street is also known as Gilda Radner Way. The 2012 renovation polished the Old Fire Hall back to its glory as a great piece of public infrastructure. Heritage has never looked better. (Rachel Lissner)

Karma Co-Operative
Architect: Unknown, 1903
Location: 585 Dundas Street East
When to visit: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Why we’re excited: You probably don’t have to look too far to find an organic, local, community-run food co-op in your neighbourhood, nor do you have to wait for one specific annual weekend to go there. But Karma Co-op is one of the original leaders of food politics and culture in Toronto, originating in 1971 and moving into its current 100-year-old historic home 10 years later. Not only will Doors Openers receive tours of the former-bakery-turned-community-hub, but there will be panels featuring Karma’s founders and long-term members explaining how the organization has lasted four decades, and why food politics are more important now in Toronto than ever before. (Carly Maga)

Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre

The building under construction in January. Photo by {a href=""}L.S. Edwards{/a} from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Architects: Diamond and Schmitt, expected completion September 2012
Location: 585 Dundas Street East
When to visit: 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Why we’re excited: Everyone loves a Cinderella story—and the fairy tale–like revitalization of the Regent Park neighbourhood is in large part due to the Regent Parks Arts and Cultural Centre. Construction hasn’t even finished yet, and already it’s being heralded as a saving grace for youth, arts organizations, and cultural leaders from the neighbourhood and beyond. It’s looking like it might be a stunner for the eyes as well as the mind, and we’re looking forward to getting a sneak peek before its official opening this fall. (Carly Maga)

The Bay at Queen Street
Architect: Edmund Burke (Langley & Burke), 1883
Location: 176 Yonge Street
When to visit: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday

Why we’re excited: Whether it’s under the Simpsons or Bay banners, the giant department store at the southwest corner of Yonge and Queen has been a fixture of Toronto’s shopping landscape since the Victorian era. The oldest parts of the current building opened in 1896, replacing a similar, short-lived structure that burned down, while a major expansion in 1929 included the recently renovated Arcadian Court. The tour, which meets at the rotunda entrance at Yonge and Richmond, promises “behind-the-scenes” glimpses at the store (though don’t expect mannequins coming to life à la Today’s Special, whose opening was shot at the store). There will be an exhibition on architect Edmund Burke, who designed the original building. (Jamie Bradburn)

UPDATE: May 26, 2012, 2:50 PM Having just visited the Bay at Queen Street for Doors Open, we really must retract this recommendation. The event description implies behind-the-scenes access to the historical building, but as it stands, we were given a half-hour tour of the outside only, and were then handed business cards by the tour guide. Very disappointing.

College Street United Church
Architect: Brian D. Luey, 1989
Location: 454 College Street
When to visit: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday only

Why we’re excited: Toronto the Good has a curious relationship with its churches, and lately it has been a trend to convert some into luxury lofts. In an effort to keep College Street United Church financially sound, a significant part of its heritage facade was demolished in the early 1990s, and condominiums that will fund the heavenly affairs were placed on the ground level. It’s a peculiar and unassuming matrimony, but also the type that makes our city just so interesting. We’re excited to learn more about the history of housing in Toronto. (Rachel Lissner)


Photo by {a href=""}picturenarrative{/a} from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Architect: Eb Zeidler, 1971
Location: 955 Lake Shore Boulevard West
When to visit: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday only

Why we’re excited: Who knew that the ancient Greek island that Plato “insisted” had sunk in 9600 BCE was actually hiding in Ontario Place all these years? Finally, Doors Open is allowing Torontonians inside the lost wreckage, known for its event spaces, ballrooms, rooftop patio, and theatre. Okay, so it’s not actually the fabled lost city of Atlantis, but Toronto’s own Atlantis Pavilions do have some of the best views of the skyline around. And it may be our only chance to check it out without having to give a wedding toast while we’re at it. (Carly Maga)