Reformatory district

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Project Overview

The City of Guelph is developing a Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Study and Plan for the Ontario Reformatory area.

The Ontario Reformatory opened in 1911 and served as a correctional facility for the first half of the 20th century. From 1970 through to its decommissioning in 2001, parts of the Reformatory site were repurposed and operated as the provincially run Guelph Correctional Centre. In 2016, Infrastructure Ontario indicated its intention to sell the property and completed the required environmental remediation at that time. The lands are now used by the public for passive recreation and environmental education.

The Ontario Reformatory lands, also known as the Guelph Correctional Centre, are at 785 York Road in Guelph’s east end, south of York Road and west of Watson Parkway South.

This project is divided into two phases. Each will include a mix of technical and engagement tasks:

Phase 1: Heritage Conservation District Study

We will assess the historical, design, and contextual value of the study area; identify contributing and non-contributing properties and resources; review the existing policy framework in the area, and define boundaries for the cultural heritage landscape. Phase 1 also includes community engagement to help the project team further understand the community’s experience of the area and to inform the proposed HCD boundaries.

Phase 2: Heritage Conservation District Plan

Based on the outcomes of Phase 1 and the Council’s approval, we will build on the recommendations of the study. The plan will provide guidelines for managing change in ways that highlight the distinctive character of the area.

Public Open House #1

The first Open House for the Reformatory District was held virtually using the Zoom webinar platform on June 8th from 6:30 - 8:00 pm. If you were not able to attend, you can view the recording of the session in the video widget on the right-hand side of the page. A transcript of the session is available here.

Project Overview

The City of Guelph is developing a Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Study and Plan for the Ontario Reformatory area.

The Ontario Reformatory opened in 1911 and served as a correctional facility for the first half of the 20th century. From 1970 through to its decommissioning in 2001, parts of the Reformatory site were repurposed and operated as the provincially run Guelph Correctional Centre. In 2016, Infrastructure Ontario indicated its intention to sell the property and completed the required environmental remediation at that time. The lands are now used by the public for passive recreation and environmental education.

The Ontario Reformatory lands, also known as the Guelph Correctional Centre, are at 785 York Road in Guelph’s east end, south of York Road and west of Watson Parkway South.

This project is divided into two phases. Each will include a mix of technical and engagement tasks:

Phase 1: Heritage Conservation District Study

We will assess the historical, design, and contextual value of the study area; identify contributing and non-contributing properties and resources; review the existing policy framework in the area, and define boundaries for the cultural heritage landscape. Phase 1 also includes community engagement to help the project team further understand the community’s experience of the area and to inform the proposed HCD boundaries.

Phase 2: Heritage Conservation District Plan

Based on the outcomes of Phase 1 and the Council’s approval, we will build on the recommendations of the study. The plan will provide guidelines for managing change in ways that highlight the distinctive character of the area.

Public Open House #1

The first Open House for the Reformatory District was held virtually using the Zoom webinar platform on June 8th from 6:30 - 8:00 pm. If you were not able to attend, you can view the recording of the session in the video widget on the right-hand side of the page. A transcript of the session is available here.

Tell us about your connection to the Reformatory Lands

The history of the Reformatory Lands is complicated. From its beginnings as a space where imprisoned individuals could learn new skills to a place where a more traditional form of incarceration was practiced to its present where it supports recreation, education and access to nature, these lands are filled with stories. As part of this project, we want to gain a stronger understanding of the stories associated with the Reformatory Lands - both the good and the bad. If you have a connection to these lands, we invite you to share it here. Anonymous responses are welcome, and if you would like to share your story privately, please contact a member of the project team to share your story via email or set up a phone call where you can share your story with one of our staff members in confidence. These stories are integral to the historical significance of these lands, and will form a significant part of our HCD Study. 

Thank you for sharing your story with us. We look forward to including it in our Heritage Conservation District Study.

Consultation has concluded

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    A destination

    by mark.mccullagh, 6 months ago

    Whenever walking in the reformatory grounds I think about the possibility, if we are ambitious, of making this a destination park. By “ambitious” I mean ambitious in the way that NYC was when they made Central Park. Obviously it wouldn’t be on that scale. But why not plan with that degree of ambition? We have here a site that would support a park that highlights our natural blessings and would also host sports fields, games areas, outdoor theatre and so on. A place worth a day trip. Talk of a “hub” seems so banal, not sure anyone has said “Let’s... Continue reading

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    Potato Fields and Arrow Heads

    by Dan Maitland, 6 months ago

    Six or more years ago Lorne Jamieson, former Farm Manager at Ignatius, and I meet with the former Farm Manager of the Correctional Centre. We were gathering information about the former farm fields in front of the Centre where inmates planted and harvested potatoes among other crops. The Corrections manager recounted that on occasion inmates would uncover arrow heads while working the potato fields. While this posed a 'security' concern, it also confirmed that the lands were a traditional hunting area. This is not surprising given the archaeological camp sites located in the immediate vicinity: one across the Eramosa River... Continue reading

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    Beautiful land

    by Kelly O., 6 months ago

    I discovered this beautiful place a few years ago and walk there regularly with my dogs and family. The area holds such an important and rich history for not only Guelph, but Ontario. The green lands have become a very important piece of nature for all kinds of wild life including migratory birds. I love being able to step into the beautiful nature in the middle of the city! I encourage everyone I know to take some time and explore the land to see how lovely it is.

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    Beautiful Place Integral to Guelph and Ontario's History

    by GuelphUrbexWalkingTours, 6 months ago

    When I moved to Guelph to attend University, my father was supposed to be incarcerated at the GCC, but unfortunately, it closed that year. He ended up in a double-maximum security prison in Penetanguishene. Horrifically different than the GCC. I wandered the grounds, wondering how life would have been different for him.

    After it closed, I used to fish the ponds and picnic on the land.

    There is so much history behind all of those walls and on those grounds.

    When COVID happened, I thought it would be a great opportunity to not only learn more about the rich history... Continue reading

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    Katie B

    by KatieB, 7 months ago
    ​​​​We have been supporting the group

    Yorklands Green Hub since it started. our support has been financial through membership and monthly donations plus helping at events where they promoted their efforts to save at least a parcel of the land that included the Warden House.

    We attended the monthly walks enjoying the seasonal changes and learning about the history of the land and its development as well as the benefit and skills taught to the residents

    The enthusiasm and dedication of the volunteers who maintained Yorklands Hub needs to be recognized. Especially Mrs Norah Chaloner and her husband Richard

    I... Continue reading

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    Leslie

    by Leslie, 7 months ago
    The “guelph jail lands” is a precious gem in the eastern part of our city, much like Preservation Park is a gem in the south end of Guelph. Over time the reformatory grounds have given way to nature and the result is an idyllic, calming and beautiful place to walk, run, stroll, fish, picnic and rest, for people of all ages and abilities.
    I literally pray that the powers of Guelph will preserve this place for future generations and create opportunities to make it an even better place for them to enjoy the birds, trees, waterfalls, streams, mini lakes, grassy... Continue reading
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    Passing by on GO bus ea week from TO to visit Father in retirement home

    by HelenHansen, 7 months ago
    I have not visited the Reformatory Lands, but have passed by it many times on GO bus as I visited my old retired Father in about 1990. As an environmentalist I suggest that any notice of any public events at the Lands include details of accessing it by public transit. How close is the nearest Guelph Transit stop?

    Helen

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    Read Norah Chaloner’s Letter to the Editor! Great plan!

    by PatVDK, 7 months ago

    Norah Chaloner said it all in this Letter to the Editor: https://www.guelphtoday.com/letters-to-the-editor/letter-reformatory-could-be-a-great-tourist-destination-5374745?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Email Most definitely, we can have history, tourism, recreation and environmental protection all together while using some of the OR lands for residences and businesses.

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    Guelph's Rich Agricultural History

    by mapleheads, 7 months ago

    While I do not have personal stories connected to this location I did come across this statistic which I feel is worth repeating.

    "On these lands the prison farm once produced 25 tons of onions, 17 tons of cabbage, 10,000 bags of potatoes, 200,000 pounds of apples, 50 tons of rhubarb, squash and cucumber and the prison farm was home to 225 dairy cattle producing six hundred and thirty three thousand, seven hundred and sixty nine quarts of milk per year." An innovative idea, using agriculture as a method to aid in criminal reform by giving prisoners a sense of... Continue reading

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    ralph@thebillings.ca

    by ralphbillings, 7 months ago

    There is more History to the OR property than a lot of people realize. We regularly walk the GHTC trail from Stone Road along the East side of the Eramosa River and circle the OR property before heading back to Stone Road. It's an interesting hike of about one hour. I assume you've seen the website below.

    Old Prison Quarry - Ontario Abandoned Places

Page last updated: 14 Oct 2022, 10:06 AM