Visiting historic Waterloo

Doors Open Waterloo Region celebrated its 10th annual event on Sept. 18. It allowed the public access to old or interesting buildings which would not be open for viewing at other times of the year.

This year, 41 sites across the region participated in activities up from last year’s 36 sites, which logged more than 8,300 individual visits.

Co-ordinator of Doors Open Waterloo Region Karl Kessler believes the architecture in the event attracts so much attention because it shows a mix of our history and our present.

“Many of these buildings are heritage buildings that have been adapted and reused,” he explained, citing the Sun Life Building on King Street in Kitchener as an example.

Many sites uptown were compiled into an Uptown Waterloo walking tour designed especially for the day.

The tour was run by Philippe Elsworthy, chair of the municipal heritage committee and Kaye Elgie, who is involved with the local architectural conservancy.

“I think local history is such a great way into history. I think it’s a way to bring it alive,” Elgie stated.

More than just an interesting way to spend a Saturday afternoon, Elsworthy believes learning about local buildings and the history that goes with them is important for local residents.

“Local history is important because it all makes sense to you. You know why the city is here and it gives a lot of meaning,” he explained.

“It affects people in so many ways and knowing what to do about the future.”

Sites on the walking tour included well-known venues such as the Seagram distillery and the Huether Hotel, as well as less known sites like Bon Accord House.

The owner of Bon Accord House, Carl Thompson met walkers as they admired the house; he said he gets a lot of positive feedback from observers.

“They like us owning it rather than them owning it,” he said jokingly.

He and his wife purchased the house in 1971 and have maintained its heritage look throughout their 39 years of residence.

Thompson said they chose the house because they like the simplicity of living in the city over the suburbs and they appreciated the woodwork in the older home.

Although there are costs associated with owning a heritage home, like updating the electrical wiring, Thompson thinks it is a myth that such a house costs much more than owning a modern home.

“I don’t think it would be much different than another house when you adjust for the age,” Thompson speculated.

Elgie said the tour received a lot of positive feedback from the participants and she is looking forward to doing more of them.

“I just like finding out how it all fits together,” she said.