Description of Historic Place
Guelph City Hall, located at 59 Carden Street, is situated on the northwest corner of the intersection of Carden and Wyndham streets, in downtown Guelph. The property consists of a two-storey limestone building that was constructed between 1856 and 1857 and an Annex building that was erected in circa 1865.
The property was designated by the City of Guelph, in 1978, for its historic and architectural value under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law (1978)-9820).
Guelph City Hall is historically important as the seat of the municipal government and as the focus and background for important events and pageantry for more than a century.
Guelph City Hall was designed by respected architect William Thomas, who also designed St. James Cathedral, St. Lawrence Hall and St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Recognized as one of the leading architects of mid-19th century Canada, scholars consider Guelph City Hall to be the very best of his buildings. The contractors, Morrison and Emslie, used dolomitic limestone from Guelph quarries and skilled local stone cutters and masons. The carving skills of notable local sculptor Matthew Bell, were also employed, and, are evident in the unique detailed stone work, which is featured on the front façade of the building, making it one of the finest and most complex, in the area.
Constructed between 1856 and 1857, Guelph City Hall stands as a fine example of mid-19th century Renaissance Revival architecture. Characteristic of this style, an imposing look is achieved through a symmetrical façade. In addition, elaborate stone textures, sculptural elements and picturesque window and door treatments enhance its monumental presence. The dominating feature of the Carden Street façade is a projecting frontispiece, topped by a triangular pediment and a heavily bracketed cornice.
The Annex built, in circa 1865, for use as a fire hall is also included in the designation. It is situated, to the rear of the property, behind the City Hall building.
Guelph City Hall is located in the heart of downtown Guelph and is surrounded by other notable heritage buildings, including; the Winter Fair Building and the Guelph Armoury. Together, these structures constitute the historical centre of Guelph.
Sources: City of Guelph By-law (1978)-9820; Designated Buildings and Structures of Architectural and Historic Interest in the City of Guelph, 1991; Guelph City Hall: A Brief History by Dr. Gil Stelter, 2003
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of Guelph City Hall and Annex include its:
- carvings made by local sculptor Matthew Bell
- limestone construction including symmetrical façade
- elaborate stone textures, sculptural elements and picturesque window and door treatments
- frontispiece on the Carden Street façade including triangular pediment and a heavily bracketed cornice
- situation in the heart of downtown Guelph surrounded by the Winter Fair Building and the Armoury