The City of Guelph was officially founded on April 23, 1827 by Scottish novelist John Galt of the Canada Company, a British land settlement firm. The town centre, considered to be one of Canada’s first planned towns, resembles a European city centre – with public squares, broad main streets, and narrow side streets. The historical tradition of the public square has been further enhanced by the recent construction of Market Square, with its spectacular water feature that is used as a skating rink in the winter and a splash park during the summer months.
The Speed and Eramosa Rivers have long been important for the region. Prior to the colonization era, Guelph was an important meeting zone, and Aboriginal peoples met to trade along the Speed River. For the early city, the rivers provided drinking water and power for mills. Today, the rivers continue to serve important community functions for their views, wildlife, and recreational trails. A popular summer activity for those at the University of Guelph is to enjoy an ice cream from the Boat House Tea Room, located at the bottom of Gordon Street just a 15 minute walk from the university. There, you can also enjoy walks along the river-side trail system, rent canoes or kayaks, or play with your children at the playground located across Gordon from the Boat House.
The town of Guelph really began to grow when the Grand Trunk Railroad reached Guelph from Toronto in 1856. Many prominent buildings were constructed during that era, most by local architects, builders, and stone carvers who used locally quarried, amber-hued limestone, giving Guelph the visual unity seen in older parts of the city today.
A key historical building is the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate, which was completed in 1883 and still towers over the city today. The Convent has been converted into the Guelph Civic Museum, which presents exhibits and interactive displays on the history of the city. McCrae House is the birthplace of John McCrae (1872-1918), doctor, soldier and author of “In Flanders Fields”, the poem that captured the sentiments of World War I and is still recited today, almost 100 years later.
From its initial settlement, Guelph was an attractive town for both industry and citizens. By 1915, the city boasted lively sports and music cultures and offered a free public library, daily and weekly newspapers, free postal delivery, 18 churches, a public and separate school system, a business college, and the agricultural college that later formed an integral part of the University of Guelph. The city owned its own utilities, street railway system, and fire fighting force and had a varied industrial base of almost 100 industries.
The city of Guelph has since become a vibrant modern city of 122,000 people, known for its high quality of life, community spirit, and green initiatives. With a leading research university, diverse manufacturing, high technology enterprises, a thriving arts scene, and a dynamic cultural core, it is one of the fastest growing regions in Canada.
The downtown core of Guelph and its surroundings are now particularly known for diverse dining options as well as boutique and antique shopping. The agricultural riches of the surrounding areas can be sampled at the Guelph Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings. With a diverse arts and culture scene, Guelph is home to five renowned performing arts festivals. Activities for all ages include hiking, golfing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and enjoying visual and performing arts.