History of the Site

Old aerial view of the Guelph Correctional Centre site

Old aerial view of the Guelph Correctional Centre site

For a more in-depth history, have a look at our long-read historical overview of the Yorklands site.

The Guelph Correctional center, earlier known as the Ontario Reformatory, has a long and proud history as a world leader in the move away from incarceration as a form of punishment toward the use of productive work and training as a means to rehabilitate inmates and give them employability skills for life on the outside.  The Center also has a long tradition of self sufficiency, producing nearly everything needed to operate and feed a closed facility on site.

The creation of the “Ontario Reformatory” was a fine example of using innovative ideas to solve the social problems of the province. Over the years the institution was always in the forefront of introducing and adapting new concepts in this regard.  Yorklands Green Hub promotes that same spirit of reform now, and an Ontario Environmental Exhibition would honour this heritage as well. Both would promote the social and cultural history of the past as a bridge to a future that the next generations can appreciate and learn from.

This site is a gem for the province and our city that will be a fine educational and heritage site.

Historical Timeline of the Ontario Reformatory at Guelph and Guelph Correctional Center

1909 – 1972 Ontario Reformatory, Guelph

  • 1909 implementation of prison reform proposed by William Hanna, Provincial Secretary for Ontario begins
  • April 1910 construction on dormitories and cell blocks begins by the first inmates and based on designs by John Lyle. Two quarries, a lime plant and a stone crusher are on the property
  • 1911 to 1915, prisoner work parties construct the Beaux Arts style Administration building, the cell blocks, and the landscape that includes ponds and waterways, dry stone walls, stairs, gates, bridges and terraced gardens
  • September 1911 cornerstone for administration building is placed by 1912 300 inmates at the facility by 1914 the industrial and farm operations are fully operational and fulfilling expectations of the provincial officials by 1916 it is the largest correctional facility in Ontario with 660 inmates
  • 1917 correctional services suspended and institution converted to the Guelph Military Convalescent Hospital  by 1919 more than 900 disabled veterans at facility
  • 1921 institution reverts to correctional facilities
  • 1947 a shift towards stricter discipline  by late 1940’s inmates produce enough food for all the prisons in Ontario, make blankets, wood and metal products , quarry stone on site and work on community projects like trails and picnic benches for parks
  • 1950 move back to more liberal rehabilitative approach for prisoners
  • July 1952 full-scale riot leading to introduction of Staff Training School on the property, as well as four Institutional Crisis Intervention Teams by 1962 the Farm includes diary, piggery, horse, cattle and vegetable farming operations
  • 1962 First Public Exhibition at the Reformatory on September 20-22
  • 1959-1969 recreational services for inmates and involving community volunteers from service clubs, churches and other public-minded groups
  • 1972 Ministry of Correctional Services discontinues operation of the farm

1972 – 2002 Privatization of public operations at the Institution by the province starts with the Abattoir

  • late 1980’s AIDS preventative measures and procedures are established by 1980 tile drainage system for the large field adjacent to the lakes is installed
  • 1982 trout-processing and bulk-packaging plant opens
  • 2002 institution is decommissioned.
  • 2006 Ontario Realty Corporation completes a comprehensive study of Ontario’s correctional facilities and identifies parts of the former Guelph Correctional Center as provincially significant heritage property
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