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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    THE FARM (House On The Hill By Karl Grottenthaler Part 2)

    by Jewel Swahn, about 2 months ago
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    House On The Hill By Karl Grottenthaler Part 1

    by Jewel Swahn, about 2 months ago

    I have permission from the author (deceased) and the author's wife to share this with the public.




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    History of The Site Summary From Yorklands Green Hub Website

    by Jewel Swahn, about 2 months ago

    Old aerial view of the Guelph Correctional Centre site

    A second view of the Guelph Correctional Centre site with the building names indicated.

    The Guelph Correctional centre, earlier known as the Ontario Reformatory, has a long and proud history as a world leader in the move away from incarceration as a form of punishment toward the use of productive work and training as a means to rehabilitate inmates and give them employable skills for life in the community. The Center also has a long tradition of self-sufficiency, producing nearly everything needed to operate and feed a closed facility on site.

    ... Continue reading

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    Beauty and solace in the city

    by Amelia Meister, about 2 months ago
    The Reformatory lands are a place that I go when I am in need of beauty and solace. I love the diversity and abundance of birds. I have many memories of biking with my child on the trails, or sitting by one of the many water features watching birds, frogs and other creature. My child grew up with these lands as part of their life and it is very important that they have that continuity to be able to offer the same to their children, if that happens one day.
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    My father recounts visiting his grandfather, an inmate at Guelph, in 1926

    by Fron, about 2 months ago
    My father died in 2020 at the age of 99.

    He often told us the story of his visit to Guelph Reformatory in 1926, when he was 6 years old.

    My great grandfather, his grandfather, was incarcerated there for what my father described as "Interfering" with a young woman who was a tenant in a house that he owned. He had no other details of the crime.

    My grandparents took my father to visit him in jail in 1926, and my father remembered it clearly even though he was only six years old. At one point, someone asked my great-grandfather... Continue reading

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    Importance of public green spaces

    by KFirby, about 2 months ago
    I moved to Guelph in late 2019. Soon after we experienced the lockdowns due to COVID. I have always valued public green spaces, but never more during this time. With schools closed and indoor spaces restricted I spent a lot of time taking my children to public green spaces like the Yorklands. The Yorklands has been a space that I have gone to destress. It is a place I go to walk, bike, meet with friends, draw, and paint. Its diversity of unique natural and man made features make it a particularly valuable space for the whole community to enjoy... Continue reading
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    Ruby Sanderson: University of Guelph Student Research

    by Jewel Swahn, about 2 months ago

    The stories I share about the projects done by university students at the Ontario Reformatory site are relevant because it demonstrates the research value of a rich cultural and natural heritage site. Professors value this site because of its proximity instead of having to venture to Toronto when we have local heritage and natural resources right here.

    Project By Ruby Sanderson

    VISION: To capture the essence of the values established by the Yorklands Green Hub (education, stewardship, conservation, resilience, wellbeing and innovation), in order to develop a sustainable and immersive centre for the Guelph community, while ensuring the sites historic... Continue reading

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    Province of Ontario Presentation On Site 2016

    by Jewel Swahn, about 2 months ago

    • In 1911, the Government of Ontario opened the Guelph Correctional Centre (GCC) on a scenic 1000 acre property in Guelph, ON. Over time, portions of the GCC were severed and sold to various purchasers, including Cargill and the City of Guelph. The current remaining GCC land is 263 acres.

    • This self-sufficient prison farm enabled inmates to take part in job-training and skills development programs. Farming, manufacturing, laundry and dry-cleaning services were all a regular part of the daily routine.

    • In 2001, the GCC was decommissioned, leaving the province with a large property containing various buildings and site... Continue reading

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    University of Waterloo Site Planning Student Research

    by Jewel Swahn, about 2 months ago
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    University of Guelph Landscape Architecture Research

    by Jewel Swahn, 2 months ago

    HISTORY AND SITE CONTEXT

    The Yorklands Green hub site is a 36 acre parcel of land located at the Guelph Correctional Centre in the South East corner of Guelph. The site has a rich historical, ecological, architectural and cultural history. In the 20th century, Provincial Secretary W. J. Hanna developed a transformational vision for the Guelph Correctional Centre as a place of reform rather than simply punishment. Since it’s opening in 1910, the Guelph Correctional Centre site has been a working farm (crops, animals and greenhouses), a military convalescent hospital, a woolen mill, a cannery, a wood furniture builder, an... Continue reading

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