Actively Travel in the Past with Doors Open
June 15th, 2023
By: Doors Open Peterborough, Shifting Gears GreenUP
Like Shifting Gears, GreenUP’s annual commuter challenge, Doors Open Peterborough is encouraging us to leave our cars at home this year and explore Peterborough’s heritage and cultural landmarks on foot or by bicycle. By including the theme “transportation”, Doors Open has curated a unique set of experiences that help us journey to the past.
This annual celebration of architectural and cultural heritage offers the public a rare chance to explore the inside of buildings normally closed to the public and to appreciate public spaces in a new light. Many of the Doors Open Peterborough destinations and exhibitions are within walking distance of each other and to city bike paths, making it ideal to switch from driving to biking, walking or rolling through history.
On September 16th from 10-4, Doors Open is inviting the public out to bike, walk or roll out for a chance to see the inner workings of the Peterborough Lift Lock, peak behind the curtain at the Peterborough Theatre Guild, and tour the 19th-century Hutchison House and its medicine garden. Masjid Al-Salaam will welcome visitors again, and the old Canadian Pacific Railroad station (now the Chamber of Commerce Building) will be open to view.
“Transportation is such a fun lens to view heritage through, as it offers such a rich point of departure for understanding the past,” says Ashley Burnie, Program Coordinator of Shifting Gears. She adds, “These locations may be mysteries as you drive by at 40km/hour, but when using active transport like by trolley, bike, foot or assistive devices, you will spot hidden gems and be contributing to a healthier environment, too.”
This year for the first time, Doors Open adds Allan Bolton’s collection of antique tractors to its list of sites. Located on River Road just north of Trent University, the garage of 25 International Harvester tractors from the 1940s and 1950s is easily reachable by bike along the Rotary Trail. As a farm boy, Bolton used to drive and repair tractors and since retiring from the bus business, has salvaged and rebuilt Farmalls, Lo-Boys, and a couple of Fargo trucks. Bolton exemplifies what it means to repurpose something from the past to celebrate it.
In addition, local historian Gord Young will lead a walking tour of Queen Alexandra Community Centre, once the Peterborough Normal School for teacher training.
The city’s refurbished trolley shuttle will be taking interested explorers out on the historic town, guided by the knowledgeable Don Willcock. This is an exciting opportunity to see how our city’s building and travel infrastructure has evolved over the decades!
Doors Open Peterborough is also introducing a new feature: a virtual self-guided bike tour of other designated heritage sites. In the spirit of Shifting Gears, participants can use active travel and an accessible mobile app to walk through downtown and east city and enjoy the sites along the way!
The circular route follows city bike trails along both sides of the Otonabee River. Participants can click on icons on the virtual map to see photos and read about heritage sites such as Auburn Mill, Nicholls Oval, and designated heritage houses on Dickson, London, Dublin, Water, and George Streets.
To explore historic Peterborough in even more depth, consult the City of Peterborough’s interactive map of designated sites and plan your own walking and biking tour! Mark your calendars for September 16th and check out the Doors Open Ontario website https://www.doorsopenontario.on.ca/ for updates on added sites and detailed descriptions of this year’s sites and tours.
Travel infrastructure and heritage conservation are both shaped and informed by intentional choices. The stories we tell about our heritage can teach us what is important for the future. As we contemplate Peterborough’s heritage while walking or cycling, it’s worth considering how the transportation choices of the past have informed the way our city is constructed, and how we might prioritize spaces for active and sustainable travel modes for the future.
Doors Open Peterborough provides us with a chance to learn about our built and cultural heritage. It is free and open to the public. Funded by the Peterborough Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (PACAC), it is part of Doors Open Ontario in partnership with the Ontario Heritage Trust. Follow @heritageptbo on Facebook and Instagram, where other events and fun facts will be shared regularly as well as Doors Open information.
The Shifting Gears program is delivered in partnership with GreenUP and the City of Peterborough. It provides resources and encouragement for individuals and workplaces to make shifts toward active and sustainable travel during the month of May and all year round.
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