Waterloo Avenue – 151

Torrance Public School

By-law: (1998)-15835

Legal Description: Lot 7, Lot 8, Lot 16, Lot 17, Plan 27

Designated Portions

The designation applies to:

  1. The entire exterior of the original red-pressed brick and cast concrete school building constructed in 1910, including all original window and door openings;
  2. All cast concrete ornamentation and trim on the exterior of the 1910 school building, including the front columns, pilasters and their associated decorative features;
  3. The roof lines of the original 1910 school building including the shallow domed roof and all cast concrete ornamentation and trim associated with the roof line of the building.

The later 1959 addition on the west side of the school building, and the interior of the original 1910 school building, are not included in the designation.

The adjacent stone dwelling located on Lot 6, Plan 27 is also not covered by this designating by-law.

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

Property History

Designed by prominent local architect W. Frye Colwill, this distinctive building was constructed in 1910 as the St. James Ward School. Built in the Beaux Arts style, of pressed red brick and trimmed with ornamental cast concrete, the school features a strong frontispiece accentuated by three large pilasters topped by a classical pediment. The grand side entrances are accented by their own columns which bear lonic capitals and the whole structure is topped off by a shallow dome. At the time of its construction, the building was considered one of the finest public buildings in Guelph because of its distinctive style and street presence.

St. James Ward School was W. Frye Colwill’s last major commission. He was involved in the design and construction of numerous local buildings but is best known for the elegant Beaux Arts Carnegie Library which graced Nelson Crescent until its demolition in 1964. St. James Ward School and the 1905 Carnegie Library design are both excellent examples of Colwill’s aesthetically stylish and original work which distinguished him from the general trend toward restrained Edwardian Classical designs in the bulk of the early Twentieth Century buildings.

St. James Ward School was later renamed Torrance Public School to honour Rev. Dr. Robert Torrance who was Wellington County School Inspector and the Inspector of Public Schools in Guelph and served as Secretary of the Guelph Board of Education for over 30 years. Rev. Torrance was the first and only minister of the United Presbyterian Congregation in Guelph from 1846 to his retirement in 1882, after which the congregation was dissolved and its members joined other local Guelph churches.

Torrance Public School is recognized as an important landmark in the central part of the city of Guelph by virtue of its age, its distinct style, its historic associations and its contribution to the character of Waterloo Avenue. The designation pertains to the exterior of the original 1910 school only.