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Local Historic Sites Open their Doors to the Public
By Erin James- ABRA

Rick Orr, of Orr Insurance, at his desk. Orr Insurance, at the corner of Waterloo and Coburg Streets, was one of the stops on this past weekend's Doors Open tour.
Rick Orr, of Orr Insurance, at his desk. Orr Insurance, at the corner of Waterloo and Coburg Streets, was one of the stops on this past weekend's Doors Open tour.

Stratford, one the best-kept heritage districts in Ontario, preserves many of its buildings by creating new uses for old spaces. On Saturday, 18 of these sites were open to the public during Stratford Doors Open, part of the city's annual Heritage Weekend. Each of the buildings on the tour was built for one purpose and adapted for another.

Factory163, for example, was originally the Globe Wernicke furniture company, built in 1902. Today, the space houses artist studios and serves as a performance space.

"My goal here was a creative collective," said Maryanne Cox, co-founder of the cooperative, "providing space for every kind of creative venture that you could possibly imagine."

Cox and her sister, Janet, took over the building from their father in 1996. Under the Cox family the factory had been a metal fabrication plant. Now the space provides a home to organizations like Gallery96 and Off the Wall, a series of production-art workshops offered by Festival artists.

"It has meant everything," said Peggy Coffey, referring to Factory163. Coffey is a founding member of Alternative Theatre Works, another organization making use of the space. They stage plays on the first floor of the former factory. "It has given us a creative home," she said.

Like Factory163, Orr Insurance, another stop on the tour, is also a family affair.

"It was the homestead," said Rick Orr, owner of the insurance company. His Cobourg St. business was once the Orr family home.

During Doors Open, Orr stood in his office, explaining to visitors that the space was once the living room of his great-great-grandfather. The home turned insurance company was built in 1874. It features much of the original furniture, including Orr's desk, which was built in 1890. On the second floor, cubicles fill the former master bedroom and files line the adjacent walk-in closet.

Joe Tuer, owner of the Stratford Brewing Co., also has a close relationship between work and home. Tuer bought the former site of the Kalbfleisch automotive dealership in 2011 and began brewing his signature Stratford Pilsner on site in early 2012. He lives upstairs.

"My commute time is short," he said.

Many took part in Tuer's tours of the facility, including Stewart Hill and his wife Kathy. They arrived at the brewery after visiting the River Gardens Retirement Residence, formerly the Victorian Inn on the Park. Having recently moved back to Stratford after a 40-year absence, Hill was taking advantage of the opportunity to visit familiar landmarks.

"I think each of us probably knew somebody who worked there when we were younger," he said of the former hotel.

Volunteers at the event reported good attendance, despite the rainy weather. At the Stratford Brewing Co., 120 people had visited by mid-afternoon.
 

Stratford Beacon Herald

 

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