Every May, I mark the week of Doors Open on my calendar. In my opinion, it’s one of the coolest events of the year.
However… you might be wondering, “Kenza, it’s September! Why are you bringing this up now?” And of course, the answer is that the pandemic has pushed back the event to September 11th-12th, 2021.
Doors Open Winnipeg began in 2004, after having launched successfully in Toronto the year before. The first year, the event took place entirely in downtown Winnipeg. The event has taken place every year since, evolving slightly with each year to incorporate tour guides, offer a digital event, add new buildings, etc.
According to Cindy Tugwell, the executive director of Heritage Winnipeg, the point of Doors Open isn’t just to invite the public to explore new places and show off the architecture. It’s also important to incorporate art, culture, heritage, and the people who use these buildings, today and in the past.
The goal is to get Winnipeggers exploring their city and its origins. Some of the buildings open only once a year, specifically for Doors Open. Heritage Winnipeg is working in collaboration with heritage conservation organizations from different regions in order to create strong connections and better serve the community.
This year between Saint-Boniface, St. Vital, and St. Norbert, there are four different buildings to explore with the opportunity of a guided tour at each one.
I talked in depth about the Old City Hall and its history in the Historic Buildings in Saint-Boniface blog.
Even with the building being partially open throughout the year, the Doors Open tour will disclose the controversy of its architecture and construction and reveal its secrets (the rumours are true… there was a prison in the basement!).
The At the Heart of Manitoba’s Francophone Community documentary is available to view at the Old City Hall for those looking to learn more about the community. Trust me, I saw it last year (I talk about the experience here), and it really is a must-see.
The Gabrielle Roy House is a central element of Francophone Manitoba, since this is the house where the renowned Franco-Canadian author grew up. She often mentions her home in her writing, but the house goes further than to just talk about her books. It also brings to life a house in the 1910s.
The St. Vital Museum is full of curiosities, like CDs, a 1939 fire truck, an exposition about the Métis people that settled in St. Vital in 1820… and so much more!
Saint-Norbert is a quaint corner of the city thanks to its open-air market and rich Francophone history. The church played an important role in the development of the community, as it was the parish of both Louis Riel and Father Ritchot.
To visit a building or take a tour during Doors Open 2021, you need to reserve a time slot ahead of time for the site you wish to explore. Some buildings are open both Saturday and Sunday, while others are only open one day.
In regards to health measures, masks are mandatory inside, as well as proof of vaccination.
During your exploration, you can even take on a scavenger hunt and social media picture contest! A small Golden Boy is hidden in each building, all you have to do is find it and take a picture. A colouring book for kids is available online and all participants are invited to vote for their favourite site.