Heritage Hour: Honouring Continuing Efforts to Ensure University of Guelph Campus Stays Beautiful

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Written by Jaimee-Lisa Cotter

The University of Guelph recently celebrated 50 years as an institution. Founded in 1964 after amalgamating the Ontario Agricultural College, the Ontario Veterinarian College, and the Macdonald Institute Guelph has since become one of Canada’s top comprehensive and public research universities.

This past weekend the University of Guelph was awarded the Ecclesiastical Insurance Cornerstone Award for Building Heritage, from Heritage Canada National Trust to celebrate the efforts of the regeneration of one of the original buildings in the founding of the University of Guelph.

The recent regeneration of Macdonald Institute was presented the prestigious award just last week by the Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island, Frank Lewis.

“This is a great honour for our entire team. We take the responsibility of maintaining our heritage buildings very seriously, which requires commitment and careful planning and execution. It’s wonderful to have our efforts recognized in this way” University of Guelph’s Associate Vice-President of Physical Resources Bob Carter said in a recent press release.

Built in 1903, the Macdonald institute is just one of the handful of buildings on campus that are approaching —or over— 100 years old. The recent revamp of the structural interior and aesthetic exterior are examples of Guelph’s commitment to not only local heritage, but our history as an institution.

With the addition and expansion of research facilities such as the science complex and the recently revamped Engineering/Thornbrough building development, students should take a moment to appreciate the landscape of the University of Guelph campus, in all of its wisdom and charm of the original infrastructure dotted by modern representations of our continued contribution to technology and science. The modern buildings that balance with the characteristic Century style buildings of the Arts departments remind us of the versatility and history of this great institution.

 Following Macdonald institute on that list of age and prestige are the MacDonald Hall, War Memorial Hall, Johnston Hall, Creelman Hall and Mills Hall.

Macdonald Hall—sister building of Macdonald Institute, both of which were donated by tobacco magnate Sir William Macdonald—is the oldest residence on campus having also been built in 1903, serving as home to exclusively female students and housing a lecture hall on the first floor. Sir William Macdonald was our daddy, what about it Johnston?

The ivy-covered, originally all male residence of Mills Hall was opened in 1921, was constructed under the supervision of George Creelman, who graduated with one of the very first degrees ever given out by the Ontario Agricultural College with the class of 1885. Acting as president of the OAC from 1904-1920, Creelman oversaw the building of Mills as well as the construction of one of the best eateries on campus that now holds his name.

The iconic Guelph campus clock tower that is Johnston Hall is 82 years old this year, being built in 1932 as a tribute to William Johnston, founder of the Ontario Agricultural College and its acting president from 1876-1879. He also was the mastermind behind the joint three year degree program affiliated with the University of Toronto that continued on as a recognized program until 1964, when the University of Guelph implemented the program into its own blossoming curriculum.

War Memorial, every students favourite multipurpose lecture hall and nap spot, was built in 1924 out of local limestone and designed by architect Harry Coales, as a commemorative project to honour the memory of Guelph students who enlisted, fought, and died in the World War I. Inside the chapel are plaques with the names of the students who lost their lives serving this country.

As unsightly as many students may claim they are, even the University Centre, McLaughlin Library, South Residences, the pre-Engineering Thornbrough Building and Mackinnon are a tribute to the progressive nature of the University of Guelph: Ever wondered why navigating offices in the University Centre of Mackinnon is so difficult? Thanks to student revolutions in the 1960’s, University Administration and architects designing these buildings in the midst of protests made sure it was able to contain them.  

Whether living on campus or off campus, the sight of these buildings and the familiarity they hold with students is similar to the pride that Carter and his team feel for their efforts in ensuring a pioneer institution was preserved as a pillar of the landscape that is known as the home of the Gryphons. 

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