In 2013, Doors Open Ontario celebrates the event’s 10th anniversary in the province. The St. Marys component takes place Saturday, Sept. 28 — the fifth time the town has been a Doors Open community.
Local residents may have already seen the guide to the sites participating in this day-long, free event. In a handy, pocket-sized format, it is available in stores throughout the downtown.
This year, there are 15 sites to visit and three of them are first-time participants.
The staff and residents of Kingsway/Fairhill are preparing a special exhibit on the history of the 1886 mansion that is the heart of this seniors’ complex. Guides will point out the original features that are still part of the building’s attractive interior — including magnificent fireplaces, parquet floors, woodwork and stained glass.
The Dusty Victorian Bed and Breakfast, Water Street North, is a private home that is also welcoming Doors Open visitors. The interior and exterior of this 1889 residence have been preserved and restored by recent owners who have respected its heritage. Note that the steps leading up to the front door and inside to the second floor may be challenging for people with mobility issues.
A popular site is certain to be the Opera House, where one of the top-floor apartments will be open, providing a sense of this remarkable building’s history. Volunteers will meet visitors at street level and guide them to the correct apartment. Please note that this site will only be open between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Some previously popular sites are participating again including Westover Inn. St. Marys is very fortunate to have this wonderful estate, established in 1867 by the prosperous, mill-owning Huttons. A new plaque in the Historic St. Marys series has recently been installed along the driveway to the inn. It provides information about the Huttons and their influence on St. Marys.
Community access to the grounds has been a Westover tradition for decades. During Doors Open, visitors are welcome into the main house as well. The chapel and some of the guest rooms will be available to see. On Sept. 28, visitors can plan a longer stay for a special future occasion.
The town’s two historic train stations are participants. The 1858 Junction Station on Glass Street, usually locked securely, will be open on Sept. 28. Volunteers will explain the challenges of finding ways to use it for a practical purpose while respecting its heritage features. The VIA Station on James Street North is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its transfer to the Town of St. Marys in September, 1988. A visit to the restored waiting room will help visitors understand why passenger train service remains vitally important to this community.
St. Marys has five historic churches — all on, or very near, Church Street. Members of their congregations will welcome visitors and point out the features that make them so important to the architectural context of St. Marys. All these churches will display material showing the programs that allow them to reach out to the benefit of the entire community — and beyond.
Also on Church Street are two popular museums. The St. Marys Museum contains displays and information about local history. Some behind-the-scenes storage and work areas will be open and a new exhibit, “Harvest Time Traditions,” starts on Sept. 28 just in time for Doors Open visitors.
A few blocks further south, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum offers free admission on this special day. However, visitors might be tempted to spend a dollar or two in the gift shop or at the barbecue on the deck attached to the Ball Hall building while they check the progress of the new King Diamond currently under construction.
Information headquarters for Doors Open will be a tent in front of the Town Hall. Guidebooks will be available there as well as last-minute news about special “added-value” features planned for many of the sites. The Town Hall will be open and word is that Mayor Steve Grose will be on hand as host for at least part of the day. Visitors can also check the work underway on the stage of the third floor auditorium as the St. Marys Community Players prepare for their fall production, Anne of Green Gables.
Doors Open St. Marys coincides with Culture Days, a Canada-wide celebration. The St. Marys Arts Salon has some plans to mark Culture Days, dovetailing beautifully with Doors Open. For instance, visitors to the Town’s Carnegie Library can also see a special Culture Days Art Exhibit on the second floor. The Art Salon is sharing the Doors Open tent and will have up-to-date information about special Culture Days activities available.
There are many reasons to make a day of it in St. Marys on Sept. 28. Visitors can begin as early as 8 a.m. with a visit to the Farmers’ Market, see the Doors Open sites that interest them, and fit in lunch and some shopping. All the Town will be ready with a warm welcome.