Baker District archaeological, environmental and geotechnical investigations

As part of work to redevelop the Baker Street parking lot into a unique mixed-use development, the City is completing archeological, environmental and geotechnical investigations. Historic reports on this work are available below, and we’ll add new reports as they are completed.

Site history

The triangular block that is the currently Baker Street municipal parking lot was the site of an all-faith cemetery from 1827-1853.

The Public Burying Ground was established by the Canada Company in 1827, the year Guelph was founded. The site was used as a cemetery for 26 years. In 1853 the Town of Guelph passed a new bylaw banning human burials within town limits. The property continued to be owned by the Canada Company for another 24 years, until it was purchased by the City for use as a public park in 1879. When plans were made to move the remains from the old Public Burying Ground to a new cemetery (Woodlawn Memorial Park), family members moved some burials, but others remained.

1827 downtown Guelph map showing the burying ground off of Woolwich Street

Some headstones that were still in place in 1853, and were not moved to the new cemetery, were no longer standing or in place by 1879. This led to a situation of there being a number of unmarked graves when more remains were moved to a new cemetery in 1879, and therefore some were missed.

Environmental investigations

In order to ensure that development proceeds with a full environmental understanding of the site, the City is drilling boreholes to understand what type and quality of rock and soil is underground, and installing monitoring wells to assess shallow groundwater quality and movement.

This work will begin as the archaeological investigation clears the locations for this work.

Archeological investigations

The City is working with archeological experts to complete an initial site investigation. The City has worked with Guelph Police Services, the coroner’s office, Woodlawn Memorial Park, and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, among others, to ensure that we have response plans and coordination in place should we find any remains or bone fragments.

To ensure that human remains are not be subjected to public display, and that they are treated with respect and dignity, the City does not take or share photographs of any remains found. The City requests that media and the public respect this as well.

Past discoveries of remains

In recent years, the City has discovered remains or bone fragments on this site three times. In each case, the City has worked with all appropriate parties including police, the coroner’s office, archeological experts and Provincial ministries, to further investigate the site, identify as much as possible about the remains/bone fragments, and relocate them with care and dignity.

  • 2005: the City unearths the remains of one male, one female, nine infants, and 36 incomplete remains. The remains are reinterred at Woodlawn Memorial Park in 2008 in a special section devoted to these and future finds.
  • 2010: a sinkhole on Baker Street reveals the remains of an infant which are reinterred at Woodlawn Memorial Park.
  • 2016: City unearths bone fragments from underneath Baker Street while turning off water to the Baker Street parking attendant booths. The remains are reinterred at Woodlawn Memorial Park.

Reports

2001 Baker Street ESA Reports

2005 Baker Street Burials City Report

2006 Baker Street Archaeological Investigations Report

2008 Baker Street ESA Report

2015 Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport Letter re: Baker Street lot

2018 Baker Street Archeological Assessment

2018 Baker Street ESA Report