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Thursday, June 5, 2014

10 doors to open

Doors Open is Halifax’s annual look inside buildings normally closed to the public. Walk through these best bets.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 1:00 AM

University of King’s College Chapel and Library - 6350 Coburg Road
  • University of King’s College Chapel and Library6350 Coburg Road

Haligonians get to visit places they usually just walk by this weekend at the second annual Doors Open Halifax. Forty venues throughout the city, such as service centres, historic sites and places of worship, are open for the public on June 7 and 8.

Doors Open's founder and president, Hugh MacKay, thought the event would be striking in our historical and transitional city, as well as "foster local pride." Doors Open originated in Glasgow, Scotland in 1990 and has since been embraced and implemented internationally. This community-building event took 18 months to get on its feet, with the help of many volunteers and local sponsors.

Last year 16,500 residents visited participating venues, far exceeding the expected 10,000. The Scotia Bank at 1709 Hollis Street was the most popular, being "a fabulous representation of 1930s architecture."

Some venues are places "that the public might not think they have licence to go into," says MacKay. "Here's an opportunity for people to feel welcome" in churches of different faiths, a retirement centre or a hotel they don't have reservations for. Most are rarely---or never---available to the public.


"The King's library is an oasis within the city, an unknown, a must-see, a jewel of our program this year," says MacKay. Completed in 1991, the King's College library has received the City of Halifax Award for Design Excellence. Its Georgian-style architecture was made to mirror the original 18th century college buildings in Windsor, which burnt down in 1920. The library is home to a multitude of irreplaceable artifacts, including the Weldon Collection, one of Canada's oldest collections of ceramics. Interim librarian Tasya Tymczyszyn says "there will also be a display chronicling the history of the university," in honour of the school's 225th anniversary.

While this is a great initiative to have visitors, the public is always welcome at the King's library. "If you are a resident of Nova Scotia over the age of 18 you are able to borrow from any university library or public library in the province," says Tymczyszyn. And with the Borrow Anywhere Return Anywhere program "if you borrow a book from the Spring Garden Library you can return it at Cape Breton University." And so on.

As an Anglican university, the King's Chapel is an integral part of the university's identity. It was designed by American-Canadian architect Andrew Cobb, a leader in his field at the time of the chapel's construction in 1930. During World War II, the King's chapel ministered to the Canadian Navy, which used the university as an officer training facility. Today the chapel is known for its commitment to accommodating students of all faiths. King's is also renowned for its Chapel Choir, modelled after choirs of Cambridge and Oxford. While the choir performs at university celebrations and in a series of Christmas concerts, the public can hear the choir any Thursday of the school year.

The King's bookstore will also be open, as well as Prince Dining Hall. Members of the registrar's office will be giving tours and visitors can check out the King's gymnasium, where public memberships will be available in September.


Alexander Keith’s Brewery - 1496 Lower Water Street
  • Alexander Keith’s Brewery1496 Lower Water Street

The Keith's Brewery tour is always a favourite for tourists and locals alike, but for Doors Open you get to enjoy it for free! Aside from potentially meeting Mr. Keith himself, visitors will enjoy some traditional entertainment, learn about the making of this always-a-safe-bet beer, and then enjoy a pint of it to boot. Have a few and you'll be dancing with the talented tour guides.


Halifax Provincial Courthouse - 5250 Spring Garden Road
  • Halifax Provincial Courthouse5250 Spring Garden Road

As for the courthouse, MacKay says Doors Open is "an exciting opportunity for people to see the cells in a non-threatening manner." Don't worry, these basement holding cells are only used in the daytime, so they'll be empty, unless you fail to clear security on the way in. Visitors will also receive guided tours of three of the venue's six courtrooms---one held the Halifax Explosion inquiry. Even though the courthouse is a public building, administrative assistant Melissa Kane says "most people don't come here unless they have business here." Organizers are excited for people to get a different perspective of the justice system, to see the type of work done there and learn the history of the building.

The courthouse was built using "sandstone from the same quarry as the sandstone used for province house in Nova Scotia," says Kane, "Province House in Charlottetown and some of the parliament buildings in Ottawa." As of last week they have set up a display case of documents found in the attic walls, dating back to the early 1820s. "We're just really excited to have people come in and to tell them about this cool building that most people walk by and don't know anything about."


Bedford-Hammonds Plains Community Centre 202 Innovation Drive
  • Bedford-Hammonds Plains Community Centre 202 Innovation Drive

While the Bedford-Hammonds Plains Community Centre is a public recreation facility, HRM is using this opportunity to showcase its brand-new building. HRM employee and Doors Open volunteer Ted Aubut says "the architect will be onsite to explain the design and the concept of the space." Natural landscapes were a design focus, with the building's roof curved to look like a whale's back and outdoors environments being simulated in the adjoining Charles P. Allen's classrooms. Aubut says the centre is "also a great example of green design. There's actually an electric car charging station outside the building." The Centre is LEED-certified, as is the Ragged Lake Maintenance Facility. The buses' connecting route from garage to highway is paved with recycled tires, the only example of this in Atlantic Canada.

click to enlarge Metro Transit: Ragged Lake Operations & Maintenance Facility 110 Grassy Lake Drive
  • Metro Transit: Ragged Lake Operations & Maintenance Facility 110 Grassy Lake Drive

The city has a free shuttle going to and from the Ragged Lake Maintenance Facility at five after and 25 to the hour on Saturday and Sunday. The #404 shuttle leaves from the #6 stop at Mumford terminal.

This is a great trip for kids as visitors will go for a ride through the bus wash, see where the busses settle in for the night and learn what happens when busses need a little extra love and care. "A lot of the city infrastructure people don't see every day" says Aubut. "This is a great opportunity to give them a glimpse of how things work and to meet the people who make them work."

Halifax Fire Department, Station #2 - 5988 University Avenue
  • Halifax Fire Department, Station #25988 University Avenue

Fire station visitors can check out the trucks and equipment, as well as see the upstairs where firefighters live on shift. A fire prevention booth will teach about safety and the in-house museum will showcase the building's history. "It's the second-oldest fire station in the country," says HRM employee Sally Christie.

Halifax City Hall - 1841 Argyle Street
  • Halifax City Hall1841 Argyle Street

As for City Hall, you can check out the mayor's office and hear Poet Laureate El Jones perform at 3pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Just don't expect to check the time---the City Hall clock has been permanently set to 9:04, the time of the Halifax Explosion.


Halifax has no shortage of cool churches chock full of history and culture that can be appreciated regardless of religious belief. Seaview Baptist (Africville Road) is home to the new Africville museum and the Beth Israel Synagogue (1480 Oxford Street) holds beautiful stained glass windows depicting Jewish history and holidays. St. Mary's Basilica (5221 Spring Garden Road) is a national historic site boasting the largest granite spire in North America and St. Paul's Anglican Church at Grand Parade is the oldest Anglican/Protestant church in Canada, as well as the oldest building in Halifax---it even survived the Halifax Explosion.


Dalhousie University Ocean Sciences Building - 1496 Lower Water Street
  • Dalhousie University Ocean Sciences Building1496 Lower Water Street

Be a marine biologist for a day. Dalhousie's four-storey Ocean Sciences Building is LEED certified and home base to international ocean experts and key projects. Visitors can see the Aquatron, which is the largest university aquatic research facility in Canada and rarely open to the public. This research tool has been used to create an artificial reef habitat for cuttlefish, lobsters and other marine life, as well as a spawning habitat for Atlantic Cod and a holding facility for seals, squid and diving birds. The building also has wet labs and holding tanks for the study of marine life, and a 10-metre tall tower tank used for deep-water research.


Mill Cove Water Pollution Control Plant - 205 Waterfront Drive, Bedford
  • Mill Cove Water Pollution Control Plant205 Waterfront Drive, Bedford

The Mill Cove Water Pollution Control Plant is one of 15 wastewater facilities operated by Halifax Water. Servicing about 55,000 people, it is one of the largest secondary wastewater treatment plants in Atlantic Canada. Guided tours will show the control room, laboratory and treatment process, and provide a history of the plant, which was built in the 1970s. The sewage arrives at plants city-wide through a collection of 172 pumping systems. The Mill Cove Plant can process up to 28.4 million litres of wastewater per day. "I think the public will be surprised at how clean [the facilities] are and how efficient," says James Campbell of Halifax Water. He says visitors "will get a good sense of what it takes to treat the wastewater going out of their homes and businesses."

As a critical piece of infrastructure the plant is a secure location, so while they sometimes accommodate school groups, most people have never been inside a plant. "The general public has no idea the valuable function they perform to protect our water, our harbours and lakes."

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