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Guelph City Hall

successfully combines the city’s proud heritage with a new state-of-the-art facility.

The building’s design incorporates the historic Winter Fair Wall and the city’s old fire hall, while its contemporary features express Guelph’s vitality and its vision for the future. In time, this new City Hall will become another proud part of Guelph’s heritage. Here is a look at the history of City Hall and the events that led Guelph to this historic achievement.

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


1856 Guelph’s City Hall was designed by William Thomas who also designed Toronto's St. Lawrence Hall. It was built by local contractors Morrison and Emslie using locally quarried Lockport Dolomite, and was fashioned in the Renaissance Revival style. Matthew Bell was responsible for the carvings and unique facade details. At that point, Guelph had 3000 residents.

1870 - City Hall with its first tower. The cornerstone was laid in September 1856, and construction was completed the following year. Photo courtesy of the Guelph Public Library Archives, City Hall, 1870(F38-0-15-0-0-93)

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


1856 The Annex was built behind City Hall to house the fire truck, fire department, police station and two temporary jails. It served as a fire hall until the 1890's. Its tower was used to hang fire hoses up to dry.

1864 - Looking west toward City Hall on Carden St. The Annex is south of City Hall. Photo courtesy of the Guelph Public Library Archives, City Hall, 1867(F38-0-14-0-0-153)

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


1860s The clock tower was expanded; it housed a bell that would ring out to mark 7 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., and 6 p.m. On Saturdays, the final ringing occurred at 5 p.m. The bell was also used to mark funerals and other important community events. During a fire in the city, the bell would ring continuously and would signal the fire's end by briefly pausing and striking a one stroke chime.

188-? - The north east side of City Hall and a second story has been added to the clock tower. Photo courtesy of the Guelph Public Library Archives, City Hall, 188-?(F38-0-15-0-0-309)

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


1875 Carden Street was a thriving business area and goods were traded and sold in the market next to City Hall. A wing to the south-west was added to provide a concert hall on the second floor and additional market space below. Every three years, the wing hosted the Ontario Winter Fair as the annual event moved between Toronto, Guelph and Woodstock.

1896 - The east side of City Hall and the wood窶田overed market beside it at Christmastime. Photo courtesy of the Guelph Public Library Archives, City Hall, 1896(F38-0-14-0-0-156)

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


1899 Guelph was chosen as the permanent home for the Ontario Winter Fair and the Winter Fair Building was added to City Hall to accommodate the annual event. A weekly farmers’ market was held in the building and the northwest corner of housed the city’s fire hall until 1971.

1900 – Postcard shows City Hall with the Winter Fair Building in the background. Photo courtesy of the Guelph Public Library Archives, City Hall, 1900(C6-0-0-0-0-724)

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


1909 Due to the success of the Fair, the Ontario government granted $25000 to extend the Winter Fair Building next to Guelph City Hall.

1938 During the second world war, the Winter Fair Building was used to house Canadian troops.

1911 - City Hall with the extended Winter Fair Building beside it. Photo courtesy of the Guelph Public Library Archives, City Hall and Winter Fair Buildings, 1911(C6-0-0-0-0-1213)

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History

The final Winter Fair occurred in 1938


1948 The building was renovated and included an ice arena. As a tribute to veterans of the war, the Guelph Memorial Gardens officially opened November 11, 1948.

1952 - Memorial Gardens was the home of many of Guelph’s junior teams, including the Biltmore Mad Hatters.

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


1961 Public skating, hockey, travelling circuses and other events were held in Memorial Gardens over the years. The Annex tower was removed.

1963 – Memorial Gardens entrance. Photo courtesy of the Guelph Public Library Archives, Guelph Memorial Gardens, 1963(F45-0-4-0-0-57)

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


1968 Guelph Memorial Gardens was renovated and the Winter Fair Wall was covered by the new facade.

1968 - View from inside Memorial Gardens showing original walls of Winter Fair Building. Photo courtesy of the Guelph Public Library Archives, Guelph Memorial Gardens, 1968(F45-0-4-0-0-163)

1970 - Postcard shows Guelph Memorial Gardens. Photo courtesy of the Guelph Public Library Archives, Guelph Memorial Gardens, 1970(C6-0-0-0-0-687)

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


1969 The prominent tower on City Hall was removed. The north-west corner of the Winter Fair building served as the city’s fire hall from 1900 to 1971. It remained intact even after building and renovating Memorial Gardens.

1978 The exterior of City Hall and the Annex were designated historically significant by the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee 1970 – Postcard shows City Hall after the tower was removed. Photo courtesy of the Guelph Public Library Archives, City Hall, 1970(C6-0-0-0-0-664)

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


1980s to 2000s Limited space at City Hall forces some City departments to rent office space and operate out of satellite locations.

2005 - City Hall before new City Hall was designed and approved

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


2005 The City recognized a need to consolidate its services under one roof and approves the design for a new City Hall. City plans to renovate original City Hall building to house the Provincial Offences Administration Court.

Approved design for Guelph’s new City Hall looking southwest from Wyndham Street.

2006 Demolition of Memorial Gardens and construction of new City Hall begins.

2006 - City Hall in background as crews take down Memorial Gardens and preserve the historic Winter Fair Wall.

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History


2009 New City Hall is complete and open to the public One of the most striking features about the design of new City Hall is the preservation and restoration of the Winter Fair Wall and the old fire hall.

2009 - City Hall exterior over main entrance

Visit guelph.ca for more photos and videos showing the construction and completion of Guelph’s new City Hall.

Guelph City Hall Heritage and History

City Hall History  

History of City Hall in Guelph Ontario

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