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Journal: Doors Open 2003

Not on Tour
"Not Part of Osgoode Hall Tour"?
Osgoode Hall (25 May 2003): The calendar once again rolled around to that most wonderful time of the year known as Doors Open Toronto, the annual festival when a variety of businesses and institutions around the city throw open their doors, and allow visitors to take a look at those parts of their buildings that they deem suitable for public viewing.
       My first stop was Osgoode Hall, the 1832 edifice that serves as the Ontario Court of Appeal and the headquarters of the Law Society of Upper Canada. At the front entrance, I was greeted by Doors Open volunteers and handed a sheet of paper that was intended to assist me in giving myself a self-guided tour of the building. Naturally my first instinct was to crumple it up and say "I won't be needing this", but I realized, on second thought, that it would actually be an excellent credibility prop.
        Osgoode Hall is a good-looking building, with lots of nice ornamentation, decorative skylights and heavily laquered wood. In spite of the crowds, I enjoyed the first few stops on the public tour of the Court of Appeal, which included several courtrooms and an impressive two-level law library.
       But I was suddenly distracted from the tour when I spotted a stairwell door labelled "Not Part of Osgoode Hall Tour". Not part of tour? Why not? Wasn't it worthy? I felt bad for this poor, unloved section of the building, and decided to give it some much needed attention. I summoned a service elevator adjacent to the stairwell and took it up as far as it went, to an empty third floor. From here, I was able to climb a metal staircase up to a small fourth floor, but the mechanical room at the top of the building was locked.

Stairs up Basement hall
After failing to get into the fourth floor mechanical room, I headed to the basement. The sign at right reads "Demolition In Progress/Proceed With Caution."
A few mechanical rooms were open in the basement beneath the law library, but none led to tunnels.
       Returning to the elevator, I headed down to the basement. I slowly peeked around corners while clutching my guide to the building, prepared to act like a confused door-opener if I ran into anyone. Plywood boards and scraps of carpet duct-taped together covered much of the floor, and there were several "Danger: Due To ______" signs taped up on various walls and doors. I pulled out my flashlight and headed in to check out a few darkened mechanical rooms, but, alas, was unable to find the tunnels I know are down there somewhere. Retreating back into the lit area of the basement, I passed through a doorway labelled "Danger: Due To Demolition In Progress/Proceed With Caution". What a scandal — demolition of part of a 171-year-old building taking place just two floors below an event organized by Heritage Toronto!
       I didn't see any explosives nearby, however, so I headed on to the section of the basement below the law library. Leaving the ancient law texts and broken pieces of furniture down here alone, I continued my tunnel quest, but it was in vain.
       Heading back up to the tour area, I waded through the crowds as I moved from the building's Court-occupied west wing to its Law Society-occupied east wing. Here I searched around a bit before finding an unlocked service stairwell. Venturing up first, I examined a hallway filled with offices, storage areas and a strange bathroom that Law Society employees had dubbed the Bassroom. For reasons I don't understand, this bathroom seemed to be very special to the Law Society, who had even gone so far as to pass a silly by-law (number 435) about the need to leave the door open when the bathroom was not in use. I also stumbled upon a big box filled with Law Society ties, which I left alone.
Bassroom Ties
The third floor of the east wing features offices, storage rooms, a venerated bathroom and a box full of Law Society ties.
Robing room
The very fancy men's robing room.
       Moving down to the first floor, I found myself alone on the very elegant ground floor of the east wing. After exploring the empty level for a little while (including a stop in the very plush men's robing room), I wandered down some stairs into a foyer and inadvertantly walked into sight of a young security guard sitting behind a desk.
       "Hello," I said, initiating the conversation and trying to sound like someone who was slightly annoyed and not in need of any hassle.
       "Hello there," he replied with a smile, going back to his work. Wow, I thought, he's not going to bother me! I happily walked past the desk and went to open the door on the far side of the foyer, which, to my great dismay, was locked. Damn.
       "Can I help you?" the guard asked, now suspicious enough to call my bluff.
       "Is this not part of the tour?"
       "Oh, you're here for Doors Open," he said. "This area isn't open to the public. You'll have to leave by these doors and come back in through the main entrance."
       "Thank you," I replied, heading back outside and kicking myself for having picked the wrong door.
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