6 Historical Landmarks That Showcase Guelph Architecture
As one of the first planned towns in Canada, founded in 1827, it’s no surprise that Guelph is known for its noteworthy architecture. The city is centred on a historic downtown and boasts well-preserved limestone buildings.
“Guelph is so wealthy in the preserving of neighbourhoods and certainly stone houses,” says Royal LePage Royal City Realty sales representative Betty Lou Clark, who is immediate past president of the Guelph Historical Society, with which she has been involved for many years.
She says the beauty of the historic buildings in Guelph can largely be credited to Scottish stonemasons. “They were formally trained in Scotland, where they had extensive access to stone,” she notes.
Here are some of the historical and architectural points of interest, just a sampling of the wealth of history in Guelph architecture that makes people want to buy a house in Guelph.
Church of Our Lady
When John Galt established the settlement in 1827, he gave the Catholic Church the hill in the centre of town. A National Heritage Site of Canada, construction of Church of Our Lady on Catholic Hill began in 1877 and took about 12 years to finish. Its defining twin steeples were added in 1926. The church has since received millions of dollars worth of renovations. The church was constructed in the Gothic Revival style and is said to be architect Joseph Connolly’s finest work.
Janefield, 366 College Avenue West
In addition to McCrae House, the birthplace of John McCrae, the author of “In Flanders Fields,” Guelph is home to more McCrae family history. “Janefield,” a two-storey stately home, was once the residence of John McCrae’s paternal grandparents, Thomas and Jean McCrae. Thomas named the house in honour of his wife, who preferred to be called Jean. It’s now a designated historic property. It’s rumoured that John McCrae scratched his name in the glass of an upstairs window.
*photo courtesy of http://historicallyguelph.wordpress.com/
Bell O’Donnell House, 96-98 Water Street
The Bell O’Donnell House is a two-storey limestone building designed in the Gothic Revival style by architect Matthew Bell. It was constructed around 1858. The property was designated by the city for its historic and architectural value. It’s also known as the House of Heads. “There are a lot of carved heads appearing on the outside of the building,” says Clark. “The stonemason would carve architectural details over the winter months and install them in spring.”
*photo courtesy of http://www.waymarking.com/
The University of Guelph
The University of Guelph’s self-guided historical walking tour takes visitors through the significant buildings that bear the names of those who contributed to the development of the university. The Ontario government purchased 550 acres of land in 1873 to establish a school of agriculture. Three colleges combined to become the University of Guelph and Wellington College in 1964. The tour hits on buildings like the president’s house, built in 1882 by local stonemasons.
157 Ontario Street
Built around 1883 for a local teamster named James Chambers, this one-and-a-half storey stone building is one of the earliest houses built in the Sir John A. MacDonald Survey, which was registered by Canada’s first prime minister in 1856. The home features fine stone masonry, incorporating local limestone and cut granite fieldstone. The front entrance is decorated with limestone surrounds and an arched lintel highlighted by a finely carved head of a bearded man.
*photo courtesy of http://guelph.ca/
Riverside Park Antique Carousel
Riverside Park is home to the City of Guelph’s antique carousel. Originally designed by Allan Herschell in 1919, it was purchased from Conklin Shows in 1970. It was restored in 1980, with a metal weather vane by Stephen Lewis added in 1999. The Riverside Park Carousel welcomes visitors from the Victoria Day long weekend until mid-September, weather permitting.
For a nominal fee, you can take the Guelph Arts Council’s Downtown Walkabout Tour, which explores downtown Guelph on selected Sundays from April to October. The tour includes buildings and sites with considerable historic and architectural interest. Tours are approximately two hours long.
Topics: The Guelph Community