1 Carden Street

Provincial Winter Fair / Fire Hall Building

Bylaw: (1998)-15716

Legal description: Part of Market Place, Canada Company Survey, Registered Plan 8.

Designated portions

  • The Carden Street and Wilson Street stone facades of the building;
  • All window and door openings on the designated walls of the building
  • The roofline over the northwesterly section of the building and the one (1) metre wide portion of the flat roofline that runs parallel to Wilson Street;
  • The one-storey, exposed rear (south) and easterly stone walls at the rear of the site,

All as illustrated on the diagram (included in by-law)

The designation excludes any interior elements of the building.

It is intended that any non-original features may be returned to documented earlier designs or their documented original form without requiring City Council permission for an alteration to the designation.

Property history

This stone structure is the remaining western section of the building erected in 1900 to house the Ontario Provincial Winter Fair. As early as the 1850’s, Wellington County was noted as the centre of the stockbreeding industry in Ontario and the Guelph Fat Stock Club, in particular, was held in high regard. As a result, Guelph was known as the “Smithfield of Canada” after the famous meat and cattle market in London, England. Guelph became the permanent home of this annual agricultural fair in 1900 after hosting it’s predecessor, the Provincial Christmas Fat Stock Show and Sale many times during the 1880’s and 1890’s. The original two storey limestone building, funded by the Government of Ontario and the City of Guelph, covered over an acre and stretched from City Hall to Wilson Street. It was characterized by three cupolas and three sets of large doors on the Carden street façade. Local builder Thomas Dobbie was responsible for the stone work. The north-westerly portion of the building, which remains today, served as the City’s Fire Hall between 1900 and 1971.

Due to the success of the fair, a section of the building along Wilson Street was raised one storey in 1902 and a major addition was made to the front of the building in 1909, extending it out to Carden Street. Horse barns, connected to the main building by a tunnel under the railway tracks, were constructed on Freshfield Street in 1911. Between fairs the building accommodated a weekly farmer’s market, and during both World Wars it was used as a military barracks and training facility.

The Ontario Provincial Winter Fair continued until World War II, after which, efforts to revive it failed, mainly due to competition with the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, which was established in 1922. Most of the original building was demolished in order to construct Guelph Memorial Gardens, which opened on November 11, 1948. The 1909 addition was removed in 1968.

The designation covers the entire Carden Street and Wilson Street facades of the remaining stone building including all door and window openings and the roofline. Also included in the designation are the one-storey, exposed rear (south) and east stone walls at the back of the site.