Peeking behind the doors

Justin Brake
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Deborah O’Reilly of Newfoundland Historic Trust, pictured here in the Newman Wine Vaults Provincial Historic Site, says this year’s Doors Open Days event has grown to include other sites of architectural and cultural significance, like the new Ches Penny Family Y. — Submitted photo

When was the last time you passed that mysterious building that always seems to pique your curiosity?

This weekend the Newfoundland Historic Trust’s ninth annual Doors Open Days will provide locals an opportunity to be tourists in their own city, and visitors the chance to see some of St. John’s most architecturally, historically and culturally significant sites free of charge.

The primary goal of the annual event “is to foster community involvement and to get people out and exploring the city,” says Doors Open Days co-ordinator Meghan McCarthy.

Many of the buildings are normally either closed to the public or charge an entrance fee, but admission to all participating sites is free at varying times Aug. 27 and 28 between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Among this year’s participating venues are the Newman Wine Vaults Provincial Historic Site, Railway Coastal Museum, Benevolent Irish Society, Commissariat Provincial Historic Site, the Robin Hood Bay Waste Management Facility, CHMR-FM Campus/Community Radio studio at Memorial University and the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre.

“We’re not concentrating anymore on just heritage buildings,” says Deborah O’Reilly, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Historic Trust.

 “We like to bring some of those in, but we’ve done it for so many years now that a lot of the really interesting sites that people always wanted to see, they’ve already had a chance to look at. And there are new sites coming up all the time.

“Each year we try to have a couple different sites,” adds McCarthy. “Some years there are several churches, for example, and this year we don’t have any. So it varies from year to year.”

Some new sites included in this year’s event are the recently opened Ches Penny Family Y on Ridge Rd., the Ordinary Spokes Community Bike Shop on Water St. West, and the Centre for Social Justice/Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council office.

“The new Y — it’s open to the public but it’s one of those things most people had just recently heard about,” says O’Reilly, “so maybe it will generate some interest for them.”

And sites like the Johnson GEO Centre, says McCarthy, were chosen because of their architectural uniqueness.

Andrea O’Brien of the Coastal Railway Museum says past Doors Open Days events have drawn significant traffic to the old Riverhead Station and Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Trail on Water St.

“We give away prizes and free passes so people can come back, then word of mouth travels and people come back and see us,” she says.

“Throughout the day we’re going to have activities for kids as well as adults. There’s going to be tours and puppet shows, so it should be a good day.”

The event was moved from the second weekend of September to the last weekend of August this year and information has been made available in local hotels in an effort to include more visitors, says McCarthy.

For more information on Doors Open Days 2011 and full listing of participating sites, visit or look for the event on Facebook: “Doors Open Days 2011.”

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Historic Trust, Coastal Railway Museum, Newman Wine Vaults Provincial Historic Site Johnson GEO Centre Benevolent Irish Society Community Radio Ordinary Spokes Community Bike Shop on Water St. West Social Justice/Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council Riverhead Station Trans-Canada Trail on Water

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