Beyond the Doors - A Look Back At Doors Open Waterloo Region 2016

For a whirlwind seven hours on a wet, mid-September day, Doors Open Waterloo Region pulled back the curtain on dozens of sites normally off limits for the public. I visited many of the Downtown Kitchener buildings on the list this year with The Community Edition and this is what I found:

 

Trinity United Church – Built 1906

Trinity is celebrating the 110th birthday of the church building this year but it may be the last one the aging sanctuary sees. Speaking to a volunteer from the church revealed that the building may be on the bidding block before the snow starts to fall. Reasons for the sale include the ancient, original boiler that still provides heat to the building, a rising need for maintenance, and poor accessibility for the aging congregation. The church building itself is beautiful in its reserved style with woodwork and stained glass gently accenting the horseshoe sanctuary. The church is clear that it is committed to remaining in the downtown core by working with a developer to create a more modern, functional space in a mixed-use, or affordable housing build on their current site.

 

 

Former Waterloo County Courthouse – Built 1964

Gone are the days when lawyers pled their cases, and judges smashed their gavels as this building now acts as a permanent home to the Regional archives and office space for Region of Waterloo staff. Like many buildings designed in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, the courthouse is “plain” and lacks decoration but its modern lines, clean materials, and gentle curves convey a sense of order and symmetry. The architects also paid homage to the history of the site which housed the original country courthouse since 1852 by creating a unique, rising entrance resembling a Conestoga wagon.

 

 

Waterloo County Governor’s House and Gaol – Built 1878 and 1853

These civic gems have graced the cityscape since the days when Kitchener was known as Berlin. The fact that both are still standing and in excellent shape is a stroke of luck when one looks into the history books to see the amount of heritage buildings that have been lost in the immediate vicinity. The gaol (historic spelling of jail) continues as a home of justice in hosting provincial offenses courtrooms and office space while the governor’s house is also used as office space. Both buildings have beautifully crafted exteriors with the gaol’s character fieldstone walls and the governor’s house locally unique yellow brick and Italianate wood decorative features. Inside, the must-see attraction is climbing the spiral staircase in the governor’s house tower.

 

 

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church – Built 1968

St. Peter’s is bit of a hidden gem that can often be overlooked for the more historical churches that dot the downtown core. The building is laid out around a central courtyard with the front of the quad being a raised level to provide the main entrance for pedestrians. The building looks deceptively small from Queen Street but stepping into the sanctuary one is presented with a massive hall flanked with shimmering stained glass that reaches to meet the decorative wood ceiling and stark white pillars. If the religious symbols were removed the space could easily be confused with a grand concert hall. But those symbols give the space meaning and even if you don’t subscribe to this particular religion or any faith, you will likely be left in awe when you step into St. Peter’s time capsule of stunning mid-century architecture.

 

 

48 Ontario St. (former Legion) – Built 1914

Situated on a block that has seen more than its fair share of historic buildings demolished, including the Lyric theatre, the Forsyth factory, and the painfully recent loss of the Mayfair Hotel and the Hymmen Hardware building, 48 Ontario has been quietly left to decay. Owned by the City of Kitchener for the past number of years, the sturdy red brick building was originally built to house Bell Telephone Company offices and was later converted to become home to the Royal Canadian Legion. The interior is mostly bare but what remains is a mishmash of leftovers from the Legion days and the buildings hosting of locally legendary blues shows. Many interesting touches can be found throughout including a tiny chapel, a weighty safe, a wooden bar cooler, 60’s chandeliers, and a badass bar ceiling. While dusty and somewhat dated, the building’s interior would not require a massive investment to be put to good use. Many in the community are rallying around the old legion in hopes to city with activate the site with affordable space for the arts. While it may not have the profile of other heritage structures, 48 Ontario is worthy of reuse and represents a good opportunity for the City to show strong stewardship of a historical property.

*Added exterior photos from separate dates for reference*

 

Thank you for reading!