Doors Open 2013

BY LINDA RUSSELL

Doors will be opening wide all over the Glebe and Old Ottawa South when Doors Open Ottawa returns on June 1 and 2. This is your chance to visit some of the city’s most architecturally, historically and culturally interesting buildings. Many of these are not normally open to the public. And by the way, it’s free!

BLESSED SACRAMENT CATHOLIC CHURCH PHOTO: KAREN RICHARD

Last year, 80,000 people picked up a Doors Open Ottawa event guide. With great anticipation, they set out to explore some of the city’s greatest spaces. This year, participants will have a bank of over 120 buildings to choose from (see update below).

Or spend some time in St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, constructed between 1929 and 1930 as the Depression savaged Canada. Its architect, Cecil Burgess, celebrated the beauty of English ecclesiastical architecture. Extensive restoration work on the handsome neo-Gothic church, led by Ottawa’s Robertson Martin Architects, received an Ottawa Architectural Conservation Certificate of Merit. The church is widely known for its excellent musical program.

Another Glebe church opening its doors this year is Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. The current stone building replaced a small white chapel made of wood built a hundred years ago in 1913. The current church was built in 1932. Its east end is dominated by a rose window with marvelous stone tracery. Inside is an imposing altar made of Bothnia granite. Its mensa or sacrificial table consists of one solid block of this granite, weighing over seven tons. According to a former priest, Father O’Gorman, “One of the interesting things about the church is its different appearance at different times of the day and in different seasons of the year. In bright sunlight its various shades of light Indiana limestone shine with splendour; in moonlight its outlines have an enchanting appearance; lighted at night its traceried windows pour out light and the rose window reveals to the outside world its seven archangels; but perhaps the church is most beautiful when covered with a mantle of snow.”

Abbotsford House is also participating in Doors Open this year. See page 7 for more information on this neo-gothic-style farmhouse built circa 1872. Or, head over the bridge to Old Ottawa South to visit the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons building, a former monastery overlooking the Rideau Canal. Canadian-born architect Alphonse Contant designed the five-storey, classically inspired structure, a major architectural landmark. Its pale yellow-brick exterior has simple architectural details, including the tall central belfry.

Also in Old Ottawa South is Southminster United Church. Designed by renowned Ottawa architect, J. Albert Ewart, in the English Gothic Revival style and built in 1931, this landmark building overlooking the Rideau Canal has walls of Nepean sandstone and a roof of slate. The interior sanctuary has a high, vaulted ceiling and a Casavant organ.

For a view of another side of social life, visit the Mayfair Theatre, also built in 1932 in the depths of the Great Depression, and one of Ottawa’s last neighborhood cinemas. It is one of the few surviving examples of an “atmospheric cinema.” The detailing that suggests a Spanish-style villa has been left virtually untouched over the years. The four faux-balconies are draped with rich fabric to suggest the presence of “hidden” staircases and hallways; the two larger balconies topped with clay-tile canopies evoke the roofs of a Mediterranean public plaza replete with medieval-style wrought-iron lamps, iron spears and ornate moulding; and Ottawa’s last remaining auditorium clock continues to keep time.

Further afield, visit the oldest operating hydroelectric generator in Canada, its original turbines and generators still inside the Chaudiere Falls #2 Generating Station built in 1801. At Ottawa City Hall’s Heritage Building, you will find the old teachers’ college, now home to the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame. During the Saturday morning of Doors Open Ottawa, you will find Mayor Jim Watson in his office, hosting visitors who drop in for tea and coffee. If you’re a “foodie,” stop by the historic Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute on Laurier Avenue, where they’ll be celebrating their 25th anniversary with special events on site.

Watch for the Doors Open Ottawa Event Guide in the Ottawa Citizen on Saturday, May 25, or for the complete list of buildings go to ottawa.ca/doorsopen. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @DoorsOpenOtt.

Linda Russell is co-chair of the Doors Open Ottawa Advisory Committee.

May 15, 2013 Update: Since publication, updates regarding “Doors Open, 2013, ” by Linda Russell indicates that Mutchmor Public School will NOT be participating in the June 1, 2 Open Doors week-end events.

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