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Visiting War Memorial Hall at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario: monumentality in Georgetown limestone

Updated on August 6, 2015
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
War Memorial Hall at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
War Memorial Hall at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario | Source
War Memorial Hall, University of Guelph[1] when it was part of the Royal Canadian Air Force No. 4 Wireless School, Guelph, Ontario
War Memorial Hall, University of Guelph[1] when it was part of the Royal Canadian Air Force No. 4 Wireless School, Guelph, Ontario | Source
Map location of Guelph, Ontario
Map location of Guelph, Ontario | Source

Imposing and memorable

The War Memorial Hall at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, dates from 1924. This solid and distinguished building was designed to commemorate 50 years of the existence of the Ontario Agriculture College: to emphasize the maturity of this institution — now part of the University of Guelph — it was decided to erect a substantial and permanent building which would be used for lectures and large functions.

As the name suggests, the fallen of World War One from Ontario Agriculture College were a focus of commemoration. After World War Two, the fallen of that war had their names added to those already mentioned on tablets in the Memorial Chapel.

The building was designed by architect Harry Reginald Coales. Significant features of the structure include flying buttresses, which add to a sense of monumentality, and a bay window feature at its south-west elevation, with two large doorways either side of it.

Thus, on completion of the War Memorial Hall in the Inter-War period, a future of peaceful development must have seemed to await student and professors at the Ontario Agriculture College, but in 1939 World War Two began. The building was requisitioned for use by the Royal Canadian Air Force: a Wireless School was based here.

Today, the building is a popular venue for concerts as well as for formal University functions. It is situated at 390 Gordon Street, Guelph.

War Memorial Hall is close to Johnston Green Park.

The University of Guelph was formally founded in 1964, incorporating the Ontario Agriculture College, the Ontario Veterinary College and the Macdonald Institute. My impression is that, for a University formally founded in the 1960s, its built environment, which incorporates mature and distinguished architecture such as at War Memorial Hall and other structures, gives the sense of an older institution (1).

The University has a well appointed and extensive Arboretum.

Famous alumni of the University of Guelph and its antecedent institutions include, to name just a few: Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) who came to prominence as an economist and a diplomat in successive U.S. Administrations; Manitoba Premier John Bracken (1883-1969), who also served as Leader of the Federal Opposition; Ontario Premier George Stewart Henry (1871-1958); Ontario Premier Harry Nixon (1991-1961); New Brunswick Premier A. A. Dysart (1880-1962); Alberta Lieutenant Governor Grant MacEwan (1902-2000), distinguished agriculturist who also served as Mayor of Calgary; Astronaut and neurologist Roberta Bondar (1945-); NDP Leader Audrey McLaughlin (1936-); Major-General (ret'd) Tim Grant of the Canadian Forces; and many others.

August 6, 2015


(1) I have for example written about the buildings at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, and while this University's charter dates from approximately the same time as that of the University of Guelph, its built environment — incorporating significant elements of concrete — is vastly different from an architectural perspective.

Also worth seeing

Both the Downtown area of Guelph and the University of Guelph have several, architecturally distinguished structures; at the University these include the Johnston Clock Tower and Creelman Hall; the Colonel John McCrae Birthplace is situated at 108 Water Street; adjacent are well manicured Memorial Gardens.

Puslinch (distance: approx. 13 kilometres); here is situated historic Ellis Chapel.

West Montrose (distance: approx. 23 kilometres) a covered bridge dates from 1881.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson to Guelph: approx. 71.2 kilometres.) WestJet and Bearskin Airlines fly to Region of Waterloo International Airport, from where car rental is available, from Calgary and Ottawa respectively. (Distance from Reg. of Waterloo Int. Airport to Guelph: 16.5 kilometres.) Via Rail connects Guelph with a wide range of destinations in Ontario and beyond. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check for up to date information with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 2 years ago

      Readmikenow: Guelph University and its buildings are certainly worth a visit. Thank-you for your comment.

    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 2 years ago

      Good article. I enjoyed reading it. Provided a lot of good information.