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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    Tap in to the Long Planning and Property Re-use Studies 2000 - 2022

    by prk, 6 months ago

    The property has vast amounts of cultural heritage documentation already associated with it. For the past 2 decades (possibly longer), Guelphites have expressed interest and the need to protect the OR lands and their historically significant buildings/landscapes. The cultural heritage documentation team should extract valuable insights into the 'value' of the property via the 1000s of pages that have already been written on the subject lands. The City's archive on the long planning re-use history of the site can be conveniently extracted from Planning for the OR Lands 2005 -

    The terminology for the site has changed over the years... Continue reading

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    A preserve in the east end

    by SLHGreenspace, 6 months ago

    Walking around the OR property is something we discovered when we moved to the Watson area in the east end. And now we love it even more for walking our dog. It is a haven in the east end and allows us to get away from daily routine. We love the historic nature with all the stone walls and bridges.

    yes there are other trails but this property with the ponds and so much green space could be a hub for nature lovers, for educational opportunities and a place to preserve some of Guelph’s history. No doubt places like the... Continue reading

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    Green Space and History

    by goodgo, 6 months ago
    The Ontario Reformatory , Guelph started in 1910 and closed in 2003. There is space for health, recreation and personal enjoyment. It was known as the Prison Farm by the Guelph locals when it opened, then Speedwell, then the Ontario Reformatory, Guelph and finally the Guelph Correctional Centre. There was a quarry, dairy operation with prize winning cattle, licence plates were made here from 1931 to 1958, thousands of people worked there over the years and their children now live all around the world. When people got married they went to the OR to get their wedding pictures taken. From... Continue reading
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    . Let’s be far seeing and preserve this treasure.

    by Suzque, 6 months ago


    This lovely parkland, walking space is precious to every Guelph resident. It is unique with a unique history. This green space needs to be preserved for walking, and getting close to nature in a city setting. It also a space that will attract visitors for all the reasons previously mentioned.
    Lets be far seeing and guard this treasure,
    Sue Wakefield



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    Jessy Carere

    by Jessy, 6 months ago

    My everyday life has been effected by the reformatory lands, growing up in Guelph always being active and having dogs, I’ve spend numerous hours there. Also the ability that Guelph processes to maintain such a beautiful and authentic nature place is one of the main reasons I continue to live in Guelph and support a green government. Hopefully this standard is maintained for Guelph and hopefully it can be an positive influence to any and all other neighbouring cites.

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    Childhood Memories of Living at the Correctional Centre

    by LNewman, 6 months ago
    My memories of the Reformatory Lands come from living in the house near the main building. My father was the superintendent in the early 70's and I spend three or four years playing on the lands and wandering the trails. As an adult, it is a great place to walk, enjoy the area and reminisce about my time living on the property.
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    beautiful natural park

    by jaime, 6 months ago
    We live very close, and this area is one of our favourites to go for a hike/ walk in. it is especially beautiful in the fall when all the wildflowers are in bloom. it creates a magical place for children to run through the flowers and fosters great imagination and creativity.
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    History Ahead of Its Time

    by slmacd, 6 months ago
    I recently attended a walking tour of the Ontario Reformatory grounds and learned all about the history of the institution. It was truly remarkable to learn about the mission of the Reformatory and how it differed so greatly from other institutions in Canada and across the world. To bring individuals together and work towards true reformation rather than incarceration was a concept that was far ahead of its time. Even today, correctional institutions do a notoriously poor job of "reformation," whereas the history would show that the Ontario Reformatory made an incredible effort. My hope would be that this site... Continue reading
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    A Peaceful Study

    by GregS, 6 months ago

    I did a project regarding the former Ontario Reformatory which required me to walk all over the grounds on several occasions. Although it was a necessity, walking around the grounds for several hours at a time snapping various photos was very relaxing as I explored a unique aspect of Guelph's history. Viewing various wildlife and beautiful scenery only contributed to the pleasant experiences. I found it relaxing as visiting the former reformatory was a mini-retreat for myself during hectic weeks! Hard to consider a retreat a project but it was!

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    A Unique Site to Preserve

    by Sidney, 6 months ago

    In the 1980s I was working for a social service organization in Guelph and would visit several young adults who became incarcerated at the Correctional Centre to provide support and to make plans for a place to live upon their release. In addition to those interactions, what stayed with me was the stark contrast from the long driveway through beautiful and peaceful grounds to the cement walls and bars inside the institution.

    Living in Guelph again, I really appreciate the chance to explore the site and take in this amazing greenspace and look once again at the buildings, long since... Continue reading

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