Last Sunday was Ontario Heritage Foundation’s second Doors Open tour in the township of Manvers and surrounding area. In partnership with Manvers Historical Society, the tour encouraged history buffs to discover the many historic sites in Bethany, Pontypool and surrounding area. One of the locations in the tour was Aunt Laura’s Tea Room a.k.a the Morton Homestead, where Michael McAllister congregated with the township to name Bethany, and St. Mary’s Church, originally built in 1852 but falling victim to the town’s fiery history, it was rebuilt after it burned to the ground in 1993. Each year, the City of Kawartha Lakes and the Ontario Heritage Foundation, choose a hosting community within the City. The Foundation then works with the community to select specific sites and prepare them and develop promotions for the tour which takes place between April and Thanksgiving.
“This is about promoting our community, not only its historic places, but touring our beautiful country side – one of the few untouched areas in Ontario,” says Kathy Morton, owner of Aunt Laura’s Tea Room. She was expecting between 200 and 300 people despite the Sunday rain, many of whom would be from out of town, promoting the community. The tour also provided a chance to recognize historical sites and push for their historical designations, a move which preserves local landmarks. Morton says the benefit of historical designations is that they slow down reutilization and even urbanization of local areas. The designation allows communities the opportunity to save local landmarks, sometimes by purchasing the landmark from the authority of the area in order to preserve them for future generations. With the Core Services Review continuing in the City of Kawartha Lakes, the area needed the tour to reacquaint the community with sites that should be preserved instead of torn down.
The tour was a unique opportunity to see inside buildings like one of the 1800’s era octagonal-style homes in the area, which is of course a residence and is otherwise inaccessible to the public. This year the Fleetwood Creek Conservation was featured, hosting a guided tour and a book signing by inventor and conservationist Dr. Bill Lishman. Bethany’s Old Post Office, the Pontypool Grain Elevator and Pontypool Community Centre, and Lotus Mill were also on the tour with lunch served at the Tea Room and Community Centre.
“It’s the one thing that seems to be a City wide event,” says Paul Zaborowski, a member of the Heritage Society. He says if the tour happens again, he’d like to see it move up to the Orillia and Rama area, where he believes there is much untouched heritage that history buffs like himself would never find otherwise.
Doors Open tours run in 34 cities/townships across Ontario with many happening in September. Further information and dates can be found at www.doorsopenontario.on.ca.