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The Square

Town of Goderich, Ontario, N7A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1982/01/18

An aerial view of the Square, looking west, most closely aligned with East and West Streets.; Gordon Henderson, July 1950
The Square, aerial view, 1950
An aerial view of the Square, looking north-east, in alignment with Montreal and Hamilton Streets.; Gord Strathdee, May 12th, 2001
The Square, aerial view, 2001
A plan outlining the boundaries of the Square heritage conservation district.; Town of Goderich by-law 1993-26, Schedule B
The Square Heritage Conservation District boundary

Other Name(s)

The Square
The Square Heritage Conservation District

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/05/30

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Square Heritage Conservation District is a key area within the larger footprint of the historically significant Goderich downtown core. It is located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron on a bluff that overlooks the Maitland River to the north and east. The harbour and beach areas are to the west.

The Square is comprised of 47 properties and was designated by the Town of Goderich under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act in 1982.

Heritage Value

The Square's distinctive architectural character, its identity, and clarity and integrity of its original design concept is associated with a significant period in the history of Goderich – the design and development of the downtown area between 1840 and the mid-1890's on the bluffs above the original 1827 port settlement. As the headquarters of the Canada Company, which was responsible for opening up the million acre Huron Tract for settlement, Goderich was by 1850 the social, economic and administrative centre for the District of Huron. The original District had a much larger footprint than the current County of Huron.

The downtown core of Goderich is a rare example of an Ontario town plan that was designed and surveyed well in advance of any construction. Growth was well planned to suit the local geography. The design concept is attributed to John Galt, the Canada Company's first Commissioner who was inspired by the 1st century BC city planning concepts of the Roman Architect Vitruvius. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (c70/80 -25bc) designs were also the inspiration of similar centralized town plans designed by Renaissance period architects and city planners in Europe.

The Square's unique radial composition and ordered symmetry is centred on an octagonal shaped public space at the heart of the downtown core. This area is known locally as "Market Square", “The Square” or “Courthouse Square” for having been the site of a market since the 1840's and the location of the County Courthouse, since 1857. The original County Courthouse, an Italianate brick building of imposing scale, massing and elegance, served as a landmark and important symbol for the town and county administration for almost one hundred years. It was destroyed by fire and replaced in the 1950's by a modern courthouse, inspired by an Art Deco design style. This building dominates the site today. Ringed by eight commercial blocks, with eight principal roads radiating from the central square in alignment with the eight points of the compass, The Square reflects the original town founder's vision of classical elegance. It is in sharp contrast to the more standardized grid-pattern design of many other North America settlements of this period. While there has been some loss in original building stock since the area's historic peak of the mid-1890's, the architectural and urban fabric of the historic downtown core are still largely intact, illustrated by Georgian, Italianate and Second Empire styles and detailing. The Square and its radiating streets continue to contribute to downtown Goodrich's distinct and unique character.

Sources: Town of Goderich by-law 1982-02, 1993-26; The Square, Goderich: A Heritage Conservation District Plan (Nicholas Hill, 1977)

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements contributing to the heritage value include the:
- size, layout and radial composition of the streets (99' in width)
- blocks within the district
- continuous edge effect of the commercial blocks fronting onto The Square
- restored and original architectural fabric of the key buildings within the district
- use of Georgian, Italianate and Second Empire architectural style and detailing
- classically inspired layout and design of the streets
- 1954 Art Deco inspired design of the County Courthouse
- existing mature trees
- landscaped open space
- Soldier's Memorial (c. 1924) and bandstand on Courthouse Square
- views from and to The Square along North, South, East, West, Hamilton, Kingston, Montreal and Colborne Streets




Recognition Authority

Local Governments (ON)

Recognition Statute

Ontario Heritage Act

Recognition Type

Heritage Conservation District (Part V)

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design
Peopling the Land

Function - Category and Type




Architect / Designer

John Galt



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Goderich, Town Hall, 57 West Street, Goderich, Ontario, N7A 2K5

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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