29 Waterworks Place

Guelph Waterworks Pumping Station Engine House

Bylaw: (1997)-15462

Legal description: Pt Lot 5, Division E
Exterior views of the Engine House as restored in 2021, including preserved limestone walls and roofline with paired roof brackets.

Interior views of the Engine House as restored in 2021, including meeting rooms, office space, and lunch area. Preserved elements include exposed original brickworks, old lifts used to move equipment, and original wooden beams.

Designated portions

The designation includes:

  • All of the exterior stone walls of the building;
  • All original structural openings on the designated walls of the building and their associated stone surrounds;
  • The roofline over the designated portion of the building, including the paired roof brackets;
  • The original stone inscription plaque on the building

The designation does not include:

Any interior elements of the building.

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

Property history

Until 1878, Guelph’s needs for water were satisfied by private wells, cisterns and the Speed River. In 1878, Mayor George Howard established a committee to investigate the creation of a publicly-owned waterworks system, primarily to compensate for the inadequate water supply then available for fire protection. This committee proposed the adoption of the “Holly System” of waterworks which used a reservoir and standpipe to supply pressure for firefighting purposes. Guelph Council adopted this system in 1879. Construction of the system began that same year under the direction of City Engineer T.W. Cooper and was completed in early 1880. Originally only intended for fire protection, the excavation of the pumping station changed the purpose of the waterworks when a spring was struck yielding a large supply of uncontaminated water which the Waterworks Commission believed could be used for domestic purposes.

Completed in 1879, the Engine House, built of hammer dressed, randomly coursed limestone, was situated adjacent to the pumping station. Designed by City Engineer Cooper, the building features elements of the Italianate architectural style including raised architraves, paired brackets, round vents and both squared and curved-top structural openings. The original contract to provide all material, excavations and masonry work in connection with the construction of the Engine House was given to stone mason James Quinn, but because the initial masonry work on the Engine House was considered unsatisfactory, he was dismissed in favour of Matthew Bell, who was hired as stone cutter, and Taylor Bros; who completed the masonry work, Other contracts went to Dobbie and Grierson for brick work and Walter Cowan for painting, glazing and tin work. In 1908, an additional wing of limestone construction was completed by Taylor Bros. to accommodate a larger pump to meet the increasing growth of the City.

The Engine House was designated as a protected property in 1997 under the Ontario Heritage Act. The Engine House is located at the current F.M. Woods Water treatment plant and, over the years, became used only for storage purposes. The building was falling into disrepair, so, in 2020, the City began the process of restoring it. With the assistance of Baird Sampson Neuert Architects and General Contractor Paulsan Construction Inc, the City was able to preserve a piece of Guelph’s Water utility history and create a workspace for City staff. Specific features that were preserved in the restoration include the exterior limestone walls of the building, the openings and exposed original brickworks, the old lifts used to move equipment, and the roofline including paired roof brackets. The building’s attic was removed, which exposed arched windows and peaked roofs, including the original wooden beams and structures. Completed in 2021, the result is an open, light office space that allows City staff to work in an environment rich in history.

Award-winning property

The City won an award in the Historical Restoration/Preservation category from the Ontario Public Works Association (OPWA) in 2021 and was presented with the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation in 2022 for the restoration work.