Have you ever thought about how the geology of our natural landscape impact an area's architecture and design?
A good example is the use of limestone as a construction material throughout Southwestern Ontario. Here limestone originates from shallow ocean marine sediments in Paleozoic times3, where the calcitic rocks became dolomitic from percolating magnesium3.
Today, the impact of Ontario’s geology can be seen in Guelph’s unique and fascinating streetscapes when, during the second half of the 1800s builders began constructing limestone homes.
Not only was the stone readily available, but it was softer than other materials, making it easy to quarry and carve2.
Picture: House of Heads, Guelph. Source: Ontario Architecture
Characterized by their amber beige colour, limestone houses have a distinct and striking aesthetic.
Woolwich Street has a series of cottage-style limestone houses. The house shown in the above picture was constructed in 1866 and is located at 348 Woolwich Street.
Oxford house, built in the 1850s by renowned architect and sculptor Matthew Bell. Source: TheDGTeam
A common characteristic among limestone houses are their thick, well insulated walls. The home shown above is located at 22-26 Oxford Street and has walls that are 3-feet-thick1!
The President's House. Source: Waymarking
The President’s House, created for the Principal of the Ontario Agricultural College, is another fine example of a stone house in Guelph.
Its Gothic Revival/Italianate architecture is indicative of a larger trend that was occurring throughout Ontario in the late 19th century.
Interesting fact: The President’s House originally stood where University of Guelph’s Creelman dining hall now stands.
The entire building was moved across the street in 1912 across the street4. The movers “ jacked up the house and transported it … with furniture and dishes still in place”4.
Want to learn and see more? If you’re interested in experiencing one of these historic homes for yourself, take a trip out to Guelph and stay at the Willow Manor B&B. If you’re super keen about learning more about how Ontario’s stone deposits have affected our built landscape, read A Heritage of Stone: Buildings of the Niagara Peninsula, Fergus and Elora, Guelph, Region of Waterloo, Cambridge, Paris, Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough, Hamilton and St. Marys.
Researched and Written by Larisa Nagelberg, graduate of Environmental and Human Geography from The University of Toronto.
1. Canada’s Historic Places. 22-26 Oxford Street, Guelph. Retrieved from http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=2979
2. Guelph Cultural Mapping Project. The Quarries and Matthew Bell, Retrieved from http://culturemap.guelph.ca/node/11434
3. Joyce, D. Mineral Occurrences of the Paleozoic Rocks of Southwestern Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.davidkjoyceminerals.com/pagefiles/articles_ontariolimestone.asp
4. The University of Guelph. Historical Walking Tour – The President’s House. https://www.uoguelph.ca/historicaltour/president.php