Doorways Open gives free peek inside historic Saskatoon buildings

Saskatoon residents got the chance Sunday to tour areas of the city seldom seen by the public.

Retired pharmacist and former University of Saskatchewan student Bruno Wiebe. (Guy Quenneville/CBC News)

But for Bruno Wiebe — a retired pharmacist who learned his trade at the University of Saskatchewan more than 40 years ago — a tour of the school’s underground tunnel system and campus also proved a trip down memory lane.

“The classrooms in Thorvaldson Building, room 105 and room 110, the great big lecture theatre,” he said, listing off his old haunts.

Wiebe was one of hundreds of people taking advantage of this year’s Doors Open Saskatoon, an annual event showcasing the city’s history and architecture.

Brad Steeves, the university’s interim leader of facilities management, led a group of about 40 people through the long and winding underground pathways leading from one building to another.

Brad Steeves with the university (far right) shows off the school’s old convocation hall. (Guy Quenneville/CBC News)

Returning alumnus Wiebe, who moved back to Saskatoon after 35 years outside the city, called the campus’ look today “gorgeous.”

As for the tunnels — some of which pre-date his time on campus in the late 1960s and early 1970s — Wiebe said he never used them.

“We took our coats and went outside and tried to find the shortest distance between two doors,” he said.

Pumphouse as bistro?

Other buildings on display on Sunday included the AL Cole Pumphouse at the River Landing area.

The City of Saskatoon has contemplated making the interior of the pumphouse available to operators to run as a restaurant or bistro.

Helen Thomas, another Doors Open participant, welcomed that idea.

Helen Thomas was looking forward to getting a peek inside both the AL Cole Pumphouse and Cambridge Court. (Guy Quenneville/CBC News)

“Oh I think it’s great,” she said. “I like to preserve the thought that people would preserve old buildings and reuse them for another purpose.”

At the Depression-Era Cambridge Court apartment complex, visitors took in such charmingly antiquated sights as a built-in ironing board inside one unit.

A built-in ironing board at Cambridge Court. (Jennifer Geens/CBC News) The afternoon-long event also made room for one new building: the Baitur Rahmat mosque on Boychuk Drive.

Originally slated to open in late 2016, the building has yet to have its grand opening but was opened Sunday to offer people a rare sneak peek.

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