Local Watch List

Despite all of our best efforts, our architectural heritage remains at risk.  Demolition-by-neglect and inappropriate development or renovation put historic buildings at risk of being lost or radically changed.  

The following list is intended to draw attention to important heritage sites in the city which require attention by the City of Guelph, the board and members of ACO, and other advocates of heritage protection throughout the city and area.

What Can We Do?

Some of the sites listed below require urgent action. For others the dangers are longer-term and in some cases not immediately apparent. Some buildings face the need for some form of adaptive re-use which can create new vitality for the community, business opportunities for entrepreneurial investors, and growing tax revenues for the City. There are many examples of this in Guelph. But such efforts take time, and no small dose of imagination and vision.  One way to protect buildings, streets, neighbourhoods and landscape is through a Heritage Conservation District (HCD).  City Council’s approval on September 8, 2014 of the Brooklyn and College Hill Heritage Conservation District, Guelph’s first, may provide a model for the protection of other districts of the city, notably in the downtown core.

341 Forestell Road 

This city-owned farmhouse sits in future development land within the Hanlon Creek Business Park.  It has been preserved in situ, with the hope that a future landowner will incorporate it into a business development, or a stand-alone function (such as a day care or printing shop).  Today, it continues to deteriorate, waiting for a new life, with no horizon for when that might happen.

Willowbank (265 Crawley Road)

Another stranded farmhouse in the middle of industrial development land in the Hanlon Creek Business Park in the southern part of the city. Formerly in Puslinch Township, this stone farmhouse is supposed to be preserved as part of a "gentlemen's agreement" when the land was annexed that the City would steward the heritage resources of the former township.  To date, the developer has not yet committed to any adaptive re-use and the building remains at risk of demolition by neglect.

Catholic Hill

The Church of Our Lady and the other 19th buildings are symbolic to the City of Guelph, and a legacy of a 19th century friendship between the City’s founder John Galt, and Bishop Macdonell. The interior and exterior of church have recently been restored, and the former Loretto Convent was rescued from demolition to be converted into a prominent new home for the Guelph Civic Museum. However, the future of other heritage buildings on the site, notably the Presbytery, continues to be an issue of concern.

Market Square and Carden Street East

The completion of construction of the new City Hall, the restoration of the former City Hall building as a new Court House, the installation of a skating rink/splash pool and the reconstruction of the street and sidewalks along Carden Street West are bringing new life to this part of downtown Guelph, now renamed Market Square. It remains a work in progress, and the recent closure of the Macondo Books Store on Wilson Street creates some concern. Carden Street east of Wyndham has not yet benefited from the re-creation of Market Square or from the relocation of the bus depot to the area east of the railway station. The future of the Royal Hotel, the oldest continuously operating place of business in Guelph, a hotel since 1856, appears uncertain. While it should be a source of vitality for the entire block, including the former Bell Piano and Organ Block dating form 1867, at 84-96 Carden.

Guelph’s Downtown Limestone Churches

While the future of Guelph’s many and beautiful 19th century limestone churches would appear secure, only one is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. Also, declining church membership and revenues are cause for ongoing concern.Macdonell StreetFrom the Blacksmith Fountain and the site of John Galt’s maple tree at the east end of the street, up to the Church of Our Lady and Albion Hotel to the west, Macdonell Street presents several buildings of historical and architectural note, amidst numerous unremarkable buildings. Some of the heritage structures are not being used to their potential. It is to be hoped that the planned re-design of the street will encourage owners and developers to look at business investment opportunities here which would enhance the value of the heritage buildings. In the meantime, they should be under a watch.

Wyndham Street and St. George’s Square

St. George’s Square at the junction of Wyndham and Quebec Streets, the centre of the city, is a classic heritage disaster area. Looking at photographs of the square as it was in the mid-20th century can only make us wonder in horror at the capacity of Canada’s major banks, and City Councils of the period, for the destruction of heritage buildings and their replacement with architectural mediocrity. Now Wyndham Street and the square are to be re-designed. The wonderful reconstruction of the Gummer Building on the square represents a hopeful beginning to this process. The redesign of the square and streetscape will be an important development, not only for the square, but also for Wyndham street, where a number of buildings have been designated, including the Petrie Building.

Future Development of the Baker Street Parking Lot

Located at the core of downtown Guelph, the site – now a surface parking lot – offers great challenges and opportunities which will have a major impact on the City of Guelph. Will it be another downtown disaster, or a development that represents a stimulating contribution to the life of the City? It has been suggested as a site for a new central library, for university and college facilities, for residential development as well as much-needed downtown parking. Whatever emerges from the plans the buildings and spaces need to set high architectural standards, to reinforce the traditional and unique character of downtown Guelph and offer new vitality for its citizens. (Even parking garages can be attractive!)  

264 Woolwich Street

Although it is a designated structure, this mid-19th century limestone house with Matthew Bell sculpture work, remains empty and is showing strong signs of “demolition by neglect.”

Kelly’s Inn, 122 Cardigan Street

Once a favourite watering hole for workers in the 19th century mills along the Speed River, Kelly’s Inn, built by a colourful Irishman in 1853 was restored by the late Chandrakant Kothari in 1990s and since 2002 houses four pleasant residential apartments. Its heritage value lies in its interesting history as a tavern, its limestone exterior walls and its mid-19th century Georgian-style architecture. Its designation was approved by the Conservation Review Board, but this was not acted on by the City. It should be designated with recognition given to its rescue by Mr. Kothari.

The Red Brick Schoolhouse in the Ward (Tytler Public School)

The school on Ontario Street is one of very few red brick schoolhouses left in the city and its recent closure creates considerable uncertainty about its future.

Exhibition Park Residential Area

The area around the beautiful Exhibition Park has been a very attractive residential area of Guelph, dating back to the late 19th century. However a recent proposal to develop a condominium complex near the corner of Woolwich and Mont Streets raises concerns about retaining the residential character of the area.