Reformatory district

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

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

  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    Tarbush and Viola Student Research

    by Jewel Swahn, 6 months ago
  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    The Little Girl At The Reformatory

    by Jewel Swahn, 6 months ago

    In 2018, Richard Wilson contacted the Yorklands Green Hub to relate that his late wife, Betty Spry, was the daughter of the first groundskeeper at the Ontario Reformatory (OR). "They lived in a tent at first, and then moved into the gatehouse on York Road while her father worked there."

    "One day, word came down to the gatehouse from the House on the Hill (the popular name for the OR) that the inmates wanted an outline of the feet of the little girl who lived there. Betty remembered standing on two pieces of paper while her father got down on... Continue reading

  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    Lovely Area

    by Renee, 6 months ago
    We’re fairly new to Guelph but already that area has become a favourite hike for my family. We have young children and so it’s an easy walk for them that’s close by. The hand built structures are amazing, the grounds very well-kept. It would be a disaster to develop this land. In an area that’s seen so much development we need this green space to off-set the industrial aspects like Cargill and the Recycling Plant. Please don’t take this space away.
  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    OR LANDS

    by vee , 6 months ago
    You know what, Guelph has turned into a slummy dumpy city. When I moved here 11years ago to the day guelph was a beautiful city! Now it’s over populated, slummy, broken down and dirty. The OR lands are a place we visit regularly to remind us why we moved here in the first place. There is so much to be learned about this land. It is so interesting and beautiful and it feels like a different world in there, a better world! It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the planners of Guelph would want to destroy it as they... Continue reading
  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    Beautiful space

    by Addie23, 6 months ago
    This area is such a beautiful and peaceful spot in Guelph. When I heard of the plans it broke my heart.

    How can we even think of ruining such a beautiful piece of land? The joy I see on peoples faces every time I’m there. The animals that call this beautiful place home.
    this is guelph! Where we cherish the environment and put it first.



  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    Intrinsic Value

    by Lauren, 6 months ago
    These lands offer something very valuable to us all - a connection between the human and natural world, between history and future, a reminder that we leave huge impacts on our environments, but that, left to its own devices, nature can reclaim and restore those environments. This site is such a unique feature in Guelph's urban landscape, and it would be an utter shame to develop these lands for the sake of monetary gain. The intrinsic value of the OR lands goes far beyond what it is worth economically, and I hope that we can look at these other factors... Continue reading
  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    Nostalgic Memories

    by Rich V., 6 months ago

    I have wonderful memories of my early childhood (early '60s) when my neighborhood older brother figure and his friends would take me fishing with them at the OR, which was our name for the Ontario Reformatory. In those days the stream and ponds were stocked with speckled trout each spring. It was very exciting for a child my age to catch trout from the almost pristine waters, comparatively speaking when looking around there today. Far less of a mess from the invasion of Canada Geese that is prevalent today. It was even clean enough for picnicking activities, today not so... Continue reading

  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    Hidden Gem

    by Cleo , 6 months ago
    Although I have lived here for almost 2 decades, I was unaware of this gem of a property until recently. Set out to hike there and was amazed by the diversity: open meadow, woodland, streams. Lots of birds, animals (witnessed a small woodland weasel having lunch) & evidence of deer. The stone walls and steps are so interesting, a testament to the industry that that once existed on site. As valuable as Preservation Park and the Arboretum, this property calls out for large areas to be preserved in their natural state even as some portions will be developed. It’s a... Continue reading
  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    A Jewel in out midst.

    by aberto, 6 months ago

    The reformatory lands are a fabulous asset to our city. Beautiful landscaped acres - all at various states of wildness or cultivation provide an excellent recreational space for our citizens. We spend every weekend and at least a few days during the week hiking there.

    The original stone walls are stunning works of landscaping and should be restored before they are demolished by neglect and, if they are threatened by the pointless widening of the block of the road between Watson and Victoria, should be re-assembled further south to re-create their original impression. These were a gift to the city... Continue reading

  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    Future haven - photos

    6 months ago

    These photos were submitted by carol williams to accompany her story Future haven - read it using the link below.

    https://www.haveyoursay.guelph.ca/reformatory-district/stories/future-haven

    All of these photos are property of Arend Nieuwland


    Arend Nieuwland and carol williams at a joint exhibition. Wellington County Museums.


    Arend Nieuwland in the main room of the art dept, Guelph Correctional Centre.

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