Description of Historic Place
The Dominion Public Building is located at 138 Wyndham Street North and is situated on the southwest side of Wyndham Street North, south of Woolwich Street and north of Douglas Street, in downtown Guelph. The two-storey grey limestone public building was constructed in 1935.
The property was designated, by the City of Guelph, in 2006, for its cultural heritage value and interest, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law (2006)-17979).
Located on the southwest side of Wyndham Street, the Dominion Public Building has a commanding presence and contributes greatly to the architectural character of downtown Guelph. The Dominion Public Building, along with the other architectural gems on Wyndham Street, including the Second-Empire style Wellington Hotel, help to create an impressive visual streetscape in the City of Guelph.
The Dominion Public Building is considered to be the only significant public building, constructed in Guelph, during the Depression era. It was constructed in 1935 as a post office and offices for the Department of Agriculture and Fruits, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) and the National Employment Services. The land on which the building is situated was originally used as the site of the Stewart Lumber Company, which was destroyed in Guelph's great fire of 1921. Although the building is no longer used for federal purposes, and is instead used by the County of Wellington, the name “Dominion Public Building”, despite the removal of the original letters, can still be read on the façade. This inscription stands as a reminder to its original function and its importance in the history of the City of Guelph.
The Dominion Public Building, the most prominent example of Modern Classicism, in Guelph, was designed by Vaux Chadwick, an architect with the Department of Public Works, in Ottawa. William A. Mahoney, a local architect known for his designs of several Carnegie libraries, in Ontario, oversaw the construction of the building, which was built by Tope Construction of Hamilton.
Built in the Modern Classicism style, the Dominion Public Building, is constructed of light grey limestone ashlar with contrasting black granite veneer details and demonstrates a symmetrical design. The central entrance bay on the façade is flanked by matching end bays that are connected by tall, fluted pilasters, which reinforced the classical ordering of the composition. Also of note are the six two-storey windows, created by the pilasters, which are divided by a metal sculptural panel. The sculptural decoration on the façade of the Dominion Public Building is impressive, and rare, in the City of Guelph. There is a stained-glass window situated above the northeast entrance which is also visible from the interior of the lobby.
The interior of the Dominion Public Building is also impressive, in particular the public room on the first-storey, which runs parallel to Wyndham Street. It features original plasterwork, metal and stone finishes. Another noteworthy element is the two-storey staircase, hall and vestibule, at the northeast corner of the building, which includes the original handrail, metal door detailing and architectural finishes. Marble was used extensively in the former lobby area on the first-storey, which is evident in the black and tan flooring, dado and ledge, door surrounds, window sills and composite order pilasters with bronze detailing.
Sources: City of Guelph, By-law (2006)-17979; Hayward, Lesley, The Dominion Public Building: Civic Convergence and Preserving our Architectural Heritage, 2004.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Dominion Public Building include the:
- evidence of the “Dominion Public Building” sign, legible on the façade
- former coat of arms of Canada, situated over the central entrance
- grey limestone construction with black veneer detailing
- symmetrical design
- masonry work
- central entrance and two side entrances
- fluted pilasters which flank central entrance bay
- two-storey windows divided by metal panels
- sculptural stone decoration
- stone steps and granite stair fender walls
- copper panels with floral fans over a repetitive regimented floral patterned backdrop between the first and second-storey windows
- stained-glass window above northeast entrance
- first-storey public room, including original plasterwork, metal and stone finishes
- two-storey stair, hall and vestibule, including original handrail, metal door detailing and architectural finishes
- black and tan marble flooring in lobby of first-storey
- marble dado, ledge, door surrounds, sills and pilasters in the lobby of first-storey
- siting on upper Wyndham Street in Downtown Guelph
- siting in close proximity to other historic buildings
- monumental scale and set-back from the street