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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    University of Guelph – History Project On The Stone Walls

    by Jewel Swahn, 2 months ago

    Please click on this link:

    Stone Wall Research Video

    The video is near the top of the page under the

    University of Guelph – History Project On The Stone Walls

    heading and photo.




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    Nature and History at the Reformatory Lands

    by Marlene, 2 months ago

    I am a bird watcher and since moving to Guelph about 20 years ago, I have been visiting the Reformatory district regularly in search of birds. Many other birders use the area as well during all four seasons of the year. In fact, in mid-April 2022, a very rare Warbler for Wellington County- a Yellow-throated Warbler- showed up in the area of the Superintendent’s House and stayed for over a week. Many birders came from other areas in Ontario to view this rarity.

    As well, I love the stone walls and stone stairs at the Reformatory as they speak to... Continue reading

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    Geocaching

    by billk, 2 months ago
    I first found these lands when I took up the hobby of geocaching. Many hidden treasures await the geocacaching community members as they hike these beautiful lands and trails, I would like this maintained for future hiders and finders to explore!
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    Part of my social fabric

    by Annette, 2 months ago
    I grew up in Guelph and aside from a few years overseas and in university, I have stayed in this beautiful city and raised my own children here. As a child, I spent most of my evenings and weekends biking around the city with friends and playing sports. The former OR was a favourite spot with many many children. There were baseball diamonds at one point where we played and then we would bike over to Rocky's for a hotdog. Biking around the grounds was not only beautiful but safe and we would often see couples getting their wedding pictures... Continue reading
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    The Reformatory Parklands In Guelph Circa 1940

    by JValeriote, 2 months ago


    This film was taken in the 1940’s by an uncle of John Valeriote whose maternal grandfather,Edwin E. Hammond was the Stationary Engineer who oversaw the installation and maintenance of the heating and plumbing system in The Reformatory, from it beginning. Edwin (Ted), his wife Emma and their family lived on the site from 1911 until the late 1930’s in a large stone house at the end of a laneway off Victoria Rd.,as shown in the film. John’s mother, Velma was born in 1910, one year before The Reformatory opened and died in 2001, the year it closed. The inmates,as part... Continue reading

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    Keep this area as is

    by Victor Lopez, 2 months ago
    Beautiful and much needed green space. I love coming here with my dogs, always a beautiful evening here
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    Much more than just buildings

    by Chopis1, 2 months ago

    There is so much history in this place! It is not just the buildings but the surrounding area, to show future generations what was happening in this place, how it was a farm, how the inmates modified the landscape with ponds, trails, bridges, how they used the Clythe creek to irrigate the area, how they build the stone walls that surround the property, in my opinion, even the nearby quarry should be preserved as part of the history of the reformatory, all the stone used in Guelph came mostly from that quarry.

    I love the ponds and the history of... Continue reading

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    The yorklans Are A Significant Part of Guelph and Of Its Residents

    by Terry Crowley, 2 months ago

    The Yorklands

    The Yorklands are an integral part of the fabric of Guelph central to the past, present, and future of its residents. It is imperative that the Yorklands be preserved for the benefit of all. Although placed on the city’s periphery, the Yorklands were always a central feature of Guelph from the time that the prison farm/correctional facility was constructed early in the twentieth century. The people of Guelph worked there and the people of Guelph regularly came to enjoy its grounds. The Yorklands serve as prime recreational area affording healthy leisure at little expense to the environment that... Continue reading

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    A unique pocket of Nature and History embedded in Guelph!

    by ftymchys, 2 months ago

    I discovered the Reformatory area and surrounding lands in 2017 as a newcomer to Guelph. Guelph Hiking Club took us on a hike. Such an interesting place that offers a wide variety of natural offerings. It struck me that it would be a perfect location for a Nature Educational Centre. It's within the city and it has ponds with frogs, turtles, ducks and water birds. It has a river and trails, hills and dales, woods and meadows. The beautiful stone walls and ornamental ponds intrigued me. That opened the way to learning about the Ontario Reformatory era where a self-sufficient... Continue reading

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    Beautiful Green Space and Historic Site

    by Alli, 2 months ago

    The Ontario Reformatory grounds are one of my favourite green spaces in the city. The grounds and walking trails are absolutely gorgeous year-round, and the beautiful limestone structures remaining from the Reformatory days give the area a rich sense of history. There really isn't a good way to describe the site, it's just one of those places that you have to experience for yourself.

    I first discovered the OR grounds while working on a second-year geology project for university. The remains of the old quarry feature heavily in my report for the project and are an excellent example of the... Continue reading

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