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City council calls on province to fix damaged reformatory wall

Historic field wall built by inmates when the Ontario Reformatory was still operating
Infrastructure Ontario has put a plastic fence around a section of damaged field wall at the former Ontario Reformatory site.

Fix a damaged section of the historic field wall at the former Ontario Reformatory site, city council unanimously told the province in a motion approved Tuesday evening.

“(Infrastructure Ontario) has a responsibility to the people of Ontario to protect our assets and it sets a bad example if they don’t,” said Coun. Leanne Caron, referring the agency that manages provincial real estate assets on behalf of the government.

“On any property in the city of Guelph, we would expect a duty of care and stewardship, and in the event a cultural heritage asset was destroyed in any way or compromised in any way, we would ask for it to be repaired.”

Sometime overnight between Aug. 23 and 24, a section of the field wall lining the driveway to the main building was damaged, with large rocks strewn about the area.

The wall was built by reformatory inmates around 1920 and is a designated heritage feature under the Ontario Heritage Act. This particular section of the wall may have been built later.

The cause of the field wall damage remains unclear. 

Several people who frequent the former reformatory grounds told GuelphToday the wall was intact one day and damaged the next, with some pointing to vandalism as the likely cause.

A spokesperson forInfrastructure Ontario, which manages real estate assets on behalf of the province, points to the likely cause as erosion.

Earlier this month, Heritage Guelph passed a motion urging city council to call on the province to fix the damaged wall. Several local heritage advocates have also publicly called for the wall to be repaired.

Since the damage was discovered, Infrastructure Ontario has set orange, plastic fencing around the section of wall.

“Given that this is a heritage feature, IO must adhere to a multi step process to inspect and assess the structure before any repairs can be contemplated, as well as surveys, and other considerations,” communications advisor Catherine Tardik wrote in an email to GuelphToday. “In the short term, IO’s primary goal is to ensure public safety.  

“To that end we have restricted access to the stone wall and have placed signage indicating the potential hazard for visitors.”

Tardik didn’t respond when asked if IO will commit to repairing the damaged section of field wall.


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Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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