Opening the doors of Toronto heritage.
Doors Open Toronto
Every year Toronto puts on this awesome event called Doors Open Toronto, which for one weekend, approximately 150 buildings of architectural, historic, cultural, and social significance to the city of Toronto open their doors to the public.
For me, this has always been a perfect way to go behind the scenes of building usually closed to the public.
The event has since attracted over 1.7 million residents and tourists so in order to enrich the visitor experience many of the participating buildings will offer organized guided tours, exhibits, displays, and activities. I’ve been attending this event since at least 2012, but because you have 2 days to get through, about 150 buildings, scattered across Toronto most of your top picks will inevitably end up shelved for the following year.
However, sometimes Doors Open Toronto offers up some real gems that do not frequently appear on the list of buildings every year. One year I was granted rare entrance to the Osgoode Hall building. Another year I was able to see the abandoned TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) Bay subway station (now used for movies)
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
A 200-year-old haunted lighthouse
This year another gem popped up on the list. A lighthouse that, until now I never knew existed. The lighthouse itself has been there for 200 years but for 2 days we would be allowed to go inside. The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse dates back to 1808 and is the oldest existing lighthouse on the Great Lakes and one of the oldest buildings in Toronto.
Now I could bore you with details about the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse’s height and where the stone used to build it came from but I’m sure your her to learn about the demise of the lighthouse’s first keeper, German-born John Paul Radelmüller. His murder back in 1815 is one of Toronto’s most enduring ghost stories. (For those inquiring mind that like facts; The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse was built to a height of 52 feet (16 m) and extended to 82 feet (25 m) in 1832. The base is made from stone quarried in Queenston and the extension is made from stone quarried in Kingston).
Murder & Intrigue
The local legend of the haunted lighthouse by its first keeper John Paul Radelmüller goes like this…
In 1815 soldiers from Fort York visited Mr. Radelmüller on the evening of January 2, in search of his bootlegged beer. (Sounds like any other typical night here in Toronto’s entertainment district). The soldiers, who had too much to drink, got into a fight which resulted in the keeper’s murder. To make matters worse (as if killing someone wasn’t bad enough) the soldiers tried to conceal their crime by chopping up the corpse and hiding the remains.
Fascinated by the story of Mr. Radelmüller, in 1893, George Durnan who served as lightkeeper from 1854-1908 searched for John Paul Radelmüller’s body and found part of a jawbone and coffin fragments near the lighthouse. (However, it was impossible to definitively prove they were linked to Radelmüller)
Recent scholarship has revealed more about Radelmüller’s life and death. Born circa 1763 in Anspach, Germany, Radelmüller worked as a servant of royalty for twenty years, in the households of the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent, accompanying the latter to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1799. Arriving at York in 1804, Radelmüller was appointed as keeper of the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on July 14, 1809.
Radelmüller indeed suffered a violent death on January 2, 1815, aged approximately fifty-two, according to the most recent and definitive study of his murder, which confirmed the basic truth of many aspects of the popular legend. Eamonn O’Keeffe also identified the two soldiers charged with (but acquitted of) Radelmüller’s murder as John Henry and John Blueman, both Irishmen of the Glengarry Light Infantry, a regiment that saw heavy action in the War of 1812. While research has verified much of the traditional tale, O’Keeffe cast doubt on some of the more dramatic elements of the story. Contrary to claims that the keeper’s corpse was hacked to pieces and hidden, contemporary evidence suggests that Radelmüller’s body was not mutilated, but was found after his death and laid to rest near the lighthouse.
Using the latest travel apps, technology, and gear, I take a city; see the sights, taste the food, smell the roses, hear the stories and feel the love. All in 48 hours. Then, using videography & editing, photography and writing I retell and share those stories with my readers and viewers.
I'm Christopher Rudder and welcome to Rudderless Travel.
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