Doors Open brings out the crowds to Oshawa’s secret and not-so-secret places


Published May 6, 2024 at 8:53 am

windfield farms
Windfield Farms, Oshawa

If you open it, to paraphrase Kevin Costner, they will come and the downtown streets were busy Saturday afternoon when the doors to Oshawa’s coolest places were swung open for the annual Doors Open event.

Historical buildings, public places and almost-secret spots in the city normally off limits to its citizens called those same residents in for a visit and people of all ages took advantage of the invite.

The shuttles to some of the sites, such as Windfield Farms in the north and Second Marsh on the lakefront, were popular and most people who were out and about on a beautiful day were in good spirits.

Publicly-owned places – some which usually charge admission and others normally not open to the public – literally swung open their doors and invited the community for a free peek to help celebrate Oshawa’s centennial history.

Mezzanine Bar, Biltmore Theatre

The Mezzanine Bar at the downtown Biltmore Theatre

From the seldom-seemed equine burial site of legendary racehorse Northern Dancer to the haunted pioneer Union Cemetery and nearly two dozen other places in between, there were lots of options, with the east block of King/Bond downtown alone offering tours at the Biltmore (where’s it’s always worth a trip upstairs to see the retro-cool Mezzanine Bar), the Georgian architecture of the Regent Theatre across the street, the recently renovated Bond|St music venue (the end result is striking) and 70 King, which had new apartments and the recently opened ground level food court to show off.

There were two dozen sites this year, including the grand downtown Biltmore and Regent theatres; a park devoted to the memory of a war-time spy camp near the Whitby border and a tank museum at the Oshawa Airport; the historic and hauntingly beautiful St. George’s Memorial Church downtown and a gallery across the street devoted to a rare collection of Canadian art.

BondISt Event Centre

Another busy spot was the Canadian Automotive Museum, home to Lightning McQueen and the world’s most significant collection of Canadian-made vehicles.

Perhaps the busiest attraction was one requiring a shuttle to get there, with groups going back and forth all day from Ontario Tech’s Campus Ice Centre to Windfield Farms, once the most successful thoroughbred operation in North America.

The final resting place (as well as birthplace) of Northern Dancer, winner of the 1964 Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Queen’s Plate and arguably the most influential sire in thoroughbred racing history, and five buildings (no inside access) are all that remain of the farm, with most of the property sold to build houses after the EP Taylor family sold the place in 2009.

Windfield now lies tucked away between the university campus and new residential neighbourhoods in north Oshawa and its location, while not exactly a secret, is guarded by fences to keep out vandals and unpublicized by the City.

It was last opened to Doors Open visitors 10 years ago – on the 50th anniversary of Northern Dancer’s exploits.

People also took advantage of a southern shuttle with stops at the Oshawa Museum (Henry House), the Port of Oshawa and the Second Marsh and McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve, among other places.

It’s the centennial year for Oshawa and the Doors Open event is part of the party, with residents enjoying live entertainment through the day at McLaughlin Bandshell at Memorial Park, Bond|St Event Centre and at the McLaughlin library branch next to City Hall.

Northern Dancer grave

The final resting place of horse racing legend Northern Dancer

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