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.

Community and Landowner Group

Become a member of our Community and Landowner Group (CLG).

We are accepting applications in the following three categories from residents at large for membership to the Ontario Reformatory Heritage Conservation District Study Community and Land Owner Group.

  • (two) Former employees or residents of the Guelph Correctional Centre
  • (one) Resident of east Guelph
  • (one) Resident at large

Read the terms of reference to understand the purpose and responsibilities of this group and if you are interested apply by completing the application. The deadline for applications is August 30, 2022.

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 below. 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.

Community and Landowner Group

Become a member of our Community and Landowner Group (CLG).

We are accepting applications in the following three categories from residents at large for membership to the Ontario Reformatory Heritage Conservation District Study Community and Land Owner Group.

  • (two) Former employees or residents of the Guelph Correctional Centre
  • (one) Resident of east Guelph
  • (one) Resident at large

Read the terms of reference to understand the purpose and responsibilities of this group and if you are interested apply by completing the application. The deadline for applications is August 30, 2022.

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 below. 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.

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

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    Born and raised in Guelph Ont.

    by Linda McArthur, about 2 months ago

    I was raised on a farm just close to the reformatory, called "ARKELL" and if you are TRULY from Guelph you would know where that is...we could and did as kids walk past the reformatory...Our parents would take us down the hill to the little bridge and go fishing...We had a little corner store in Arkell, called "Coulsons" they were the best and most friendly of all...my brother and I would walk through the corn field to the next farm and they would sit us down and give us ice cream or milk and cookies, then send us off back... Continue reading

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    University of Guelph Research By: Alice Lee and Erick Li

    by Jewel Swahn, about 2 months ago
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    Green spaces for Guelph

    by Youmeveryone, about 2 months ago
    Having been born in Guelph and raised in The Ward, it seemed we came by the history of the OR lands through osmosis. We heard all the stories that fascinated us as children.Now we spend many days in the warmer months there just feeling joy from the trees and birds.

    Walking with our loved ones, spending time in nature and being able to distress is what we all deserve.

    It feels like a integral part of the body of Guelph. like Church of our Lady or the Co-Op building and also the university of Guelph. It seems this city is... Continue reading
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    History - the present and the future legacy for Guelph

    by Lin, about 2 months ago

    Others will speak to the history of this wonderful landscape - as a meeting place for the Huron, Wendat and many other indigenous peoples; of the building of the Ontario reformatory beginning with the vision in 1905 of William Hanna as a place to reform and rehabilitate, rather than punish - a first for Ontario. The design of the landscape based on the Cities Beautiful and Beaux Arts style. its time as a rehabilitation hospital for WW1 veterans - the Speedwell Military hospital. The many years when the reformatory was a working farm, feeding itself and institutions all around it... Continue reading

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    THE INMATES (House On The Hill By Karl Grottenthaler Part 8)

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    THE INDUSTRIES AND SERVICES (House On The Hill By Karl Grottenthaler Part 7)

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    EVOLUTION OF THE PRISON (House On The Hill By Karl Grottenthaler Part 6)

    by Jewel Swahn, about 2 months ago
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    INDIGENOUS INMATES (House On The Hill By Karl Grottenthaler Part 5)

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    CHURCH (House On The Hill By Karl Grottenthaler Part 4)

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    PRISON RECREATION (House On The Hill By Karl Grottenthaler Part 3)

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Page last updated: 29 Jul 2022, 12:20 PM