Description of Historic Place
The Provincial Winter Fair Building is located at 1 Carden Street, next to City Hall, on a full city block, bounded by Wilson, Carden and Wyndham Streets and the Canadian National Railway line, in the downtown core, of the City of Guelph. The property consists of the partial remains of a two-storey limestone building constructed in 1900.
The property was designated, by the City of Guelph, in 1998, for its historic and architectural value, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act, By-law (1998)-15716.
The Winter Fair Building is located in the Market Square next to City Hall. Putting the Fair Building at the heart of the downtown's market area demonstrated the centrality of the market function to the city's character and economy. The use of local limestone also represented a Guelph tradition and it connected the Winter Fair Building architecturally to City Hall and the city's commercial core.
The Provincial Winter Fair Building, home to Ontario's Winter Agricultural Fair from 1900 to the beginning of the Second World War, represents the City of Guelph's long tradition of promoting a scientific approach to agriculture. As early as the 1850s, Wellington County was the centre of the stockbreeding industry in Ontario. Led by local stockmen Howitt, Stone, Whitelaw and McCrae, Guelph became known as the “Smithfield of Canada”, after the famous meat and cattle market in London, England. The choice to locate the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph, in 1874, emphasized the role that education and research could play in the agricultural improvement. The choice of Guelph over rivals such as Brantford, London and Ottawa, as the site of the Ontario Provincial Fair ,in 1900, consolidated Guelph's status in the agricultural community.
Competition between Ottawa, London and Toronto's fairs led to a decline in the importance of Guelph's fair. The fair was suspended during World War II and was not revived after the war. Most of the original building was demolished in order to create Guelph Memorial Gardens, which opened in 1948, to commemorate Guelph's contribution to the Second World War. The Fire Hall occupied the west end of the building and was not affected by these changes.
The Ontario Provincial Winter Fair Building, of 1900, represents a powerful local statement about Guelph's character and identity. The architectural style of this building was in keeping with Guelph's “Old World country town” look. Classical and Italianate designs were used extensively on the civic and city commercial buildings, constructed in Guelph, during the Victorian era. The Winter Fair Building was designed by architect F.R. Heakes, in an eclectic Victorian style. Its functional design reflects the older civic buildings, in the basic symmetry of the 320-foot façade, and the sixteen sets of paired windows on the second storey. The Fire Hall at the western end was incorporated into the design, giving an overall effect similar to the commercial streetscape of Wyndham Street.
The Fair building was the last construction project of Thomas Dobbie, a prominent Guelph mason and leading contractor of the Victorian Period. Some of his other projects included Chalmers Church, the Customs House and Post Office, of 1876, in St. George's Square, and the Kennedy and Wyndham Blocks on Upper Wyndham Street.
Source: City of Guelph By-law (1998) -15716.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Provincial Winter Fair Building include its:
- local limestone construction
- sixteen sets of paired windows on the second storey of the designated walls
- roofline over the north-western section of the building and the one metre wide portion of the flat roofline that runs parallel to Wilson Street
- one-storey exposed south and easterly stone walls at the rear of the site
- central downtown location, immediately adjacent to City Hall and in close proximity to the commercial core