Sunday, June 20, 2010

Doors Open: The Horticulture Building

After the busy June in Centretown, I've decided to spend the rest of the month away from the hectic community-meeting sphere. This will allow me to catch up on blogging, right in time to gear up for Bluesfest.

In early June each year is a weekend event called Doors Open Ottawa, part of an Ontario-wide event that allows the public behind normally closed doors. You can see some Doors Open-like tours of Ottawa sites that I've blogged by clicking on the Tours label. Sites include the former City Hall at 111 Sussex, the former Union train station, and the Traffic & Parking Operations division building.

This year, however, I knew that I had to get into the Horticulture building at Lansdowne Park, as there is a good chance this would be the last year to see it. Heritage Ottawa sponsored the tour of this building.

As you enter the front doors, you're greeted by a brightly-coloured barnyard mural.

Right after the 'barn' entrance, turn right and you see the ramshackle 'Paint Room' concealing the stairs to the second storey.

Inside, it's obvious how the room got its name. A rather bleak utility room has been brightened by its occupants, making a rather fun space. The caution tape is only there for the tours.

On another wall are some fake footprints, and "G'day" is written cheerfully on a window looking out on another closed-off part of the main hall.

Through the Paint Room is the stairway to the second floor reception hall and viewing balcony. The paint has been peeling and growing mouldy.

But the banister is in very good shape. The details reflect the Prairie style of the building's designer, Francis C. Sullivan, a student of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Up the stairs, we see the cantilevered viewing balcony on the right. The balcony stretches the entire width of the building, with large windows for watching the wintertime curling games.

Straight ahead from the stairs is the main reception hall. But before going there, we'll take a peek to the left, into the kitchenette:

You can see at the far wall that only one of the three windows in this room has the original Prairie-style framing.

The windows in the adjoining room are in better condition, but that room was off limits to the tour.

The reception room is at the middle of the building in the second floor. The three windows at the left are the ones you see when you look at the front of the building. The middle window is the only one not boarded up. Similarly, only one of the three along the roof at the right is original.

Currently the room contains many old signs from various sporting events and from the Ex. Here's a sampling.

Looking out that big front window, we get a nice view of the Lady Aberdeen Pavillion. It would look even nicer when all three windows are restored.

The shorter front-facing windows on the sides of the reception hall have a slightly different design.

I've been saving the view of the main hall. Here it is from the viewing balcony. You can make out lots of stuff being stored from past events held at Lansdowne Park--a treasure trove of paraphernalia. In the winter, the side windows would have been boarded up (as they are now) with rudimentary insulation for the curling rinks. In the summer, the windows would have been opened up, allowing light for the horticultural society to keep its plants.

On the West side wall, we can see the front of the building at the right, and the main hallway to the left, including the large--but boarded-windows.

And that's the Horticulture Building in a nutshell.

See also Ottawa Citizen writer Maria Cook's photos from her tour of the building back in January on her blog Designing Ottawa. The Citizen's David Reevely also toured the building during Doors Open, and wrote about it on his blog, Greater Ottawa.

More information about the Horticulture building is available from the Heritage Ottawa website. Heritage Ottawa is worried that if the building is moved, it might not survive the move intact, and after money is spent moving it, there won't be any left to rehabilitate it to modern safety standards, and it will remain unusable and unused.

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