Doors Open Oshawa inviting visitors to see spy camps, cemeteries, theatres and churches (oh my)

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Published April 25, 2024 at 4:46 pm

Northern Dancer's grave
The final resting place of legendary racehorse (and sire) Northern Dancer

From the seldom-seemed equine burial site of legendary racehorse Northern Dancer in the city’s north end to the haunted pioneer Union Cemetery in the west and nearly two dozen other, often inaccessible, places in between, Doors Open Ontario will have something for everyone on May 4.

That’s the day publicly-owned places – some which usually charge admission and others normally not open to the public – literally swing open their doors and invite the community for a free peek to help celebrate Oshawa’s history.

There are 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; and the historic (and breath-taking) St. George’s Memorial Church downtown and a gallery across the street that is home to a rare collection of Canadian art.

It’s a lot to see in one day but residents and visitors are encouraged to see as many as they can.

“Doors Open Oshawa is an amazing one-day opportunity to explore more than 20 unique, historic or architecturally significant spaces for free in the great City of Oshawa,” said Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter, who encouraged visitors to hop on the free shuttle to explore many of the sites.

St. George’s Memorial Church

The shuttle, which will take visitors from Campus Ice Centre on the Ontario Tech University/Durham College grounds into the Windfields Farms site, is the only way you can see it the final resting place of Northern Dancer, Canada’s most famous racehorse and arguably the greatest sire in thoroughbred history. Access to the graves and the buildings that survived the sale of the legendary breeding farm to the university (who are honour-bound to take care of it) is by shuttle bus only.

Windfields Farm closed in 2009 and the equine gravesite, which is home to Northern Dancer and ten other horses (including 1960 Queen’s Plate winner Victoria Park), lies tucked away between the university campus and new residential neighbourhoods in north Oshawa – its history unknown to generations of the city’s citizens.

The location of the Dancer’s grave, while not exactly a secret, is guarded by fences to keep out vandals and unpublicized by the City.

On May 4 – 60 years (and two days) after the little horse that could famously won the 1964 Kentucky Derby and a decade after the last time the  site was featured – the site will be open once again to the public.

But there’s plenty more to see in Oshawa on the day, giving residents an opportunity to discover and learn more about buildings and sites that shaped Oshawa’s history and culture.

Robert Bell, a long-time volunteer in Oshawa who attends many community events throughout the year, is hoping to hit “as many places as I can” on May 4, with his schedule still to be worked out.

Bell was heavily involved in the now closed Simcoe Street United Church and this will be the first year he is not tied to church events on Doors Open.

“I have not made up my list yet but Camp X is definitely one I want to go to.”

This year Oshawa is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a city and as part of the centennial celebrations and of Doors Open, visitors can enjoy live entertainment at McLaughlin Bandshell at Memorial Park, Bond|St Event Centre and at the Oshawa Public Library’ McLaughlin Branch.

The hop on/hop off shuttle will be provided to many of the locations, with one bus running north to various sites (including Windfields Farms and the Ontario Regiment’s tank museum) and another heading south with stops at the Oshawa Museum – Henry House and the Second Marsh and McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve, among other places.

Doors Open will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with shuttle service from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Second Marsh/McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve

This year’s in-person sites include:

  • 70 King – (New)
  • 420 Wing – (New)
  • Biltmore Theatre
  • Bond|St Event Centre – (New)
  • Camp X / Intrepid Park
  • Canadian Automotive Museum
  • Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA) Headquarters – (New)
  • Charles Hall, Ontario Tech University
  • Oshawa Fire Station 6 – featuring a new exhibit in the Heritage Gallery (New)
  • Oshawa Parks Greenhouse
  • Colonel R. S. McLaughlin Armoury
  • Durham College, Oshawa Campus – (New)
  • Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority
  • Islamic Centre of Oshawa
  • McLaughlin Bandshell – with an Oshawa Civic Band performance at 11:30 a.m.
  • Oshawa Museum, Henry House and Guy House
  • Oshawa Public Libraries – McLaughlin Branch
  • Ontario Regiment Museum
  • Oshawa Second Marsh and McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve – (New)
  • Regent Theatre
  • Robert McLaughlin Gallery
  • George’s Memorial Church
  • Union Cemetery, featuring an Oshawa Museum Walking tour
  • Windfields Farm – Northern Dancer’s birthplace and final resting place (New)

This year’s Doors Open theme is Adaptive Reuse, showcasing heritage sites that have been repurposed to best serve their communities, while retaining their heritage attributes.

Biltmore Theatre

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