Monday, February 18, 2019

Ward One Guelph

The last (at least for now) in the Guelph Arts Council's series of historic walking booklets, Ward One Guelph was produced in 2010 - yes almost ten years ago and 12 years after the last publication; Brooklyn and College Hill.

There is a new and highly qualified author, Dr. Terry Crowley. 
We also have a new highly talented visual artist, Robin Baird Lewis.

You have to read this book!

The Ward One walk was my introduction to the historic walks and it took me by surprise.

When I volunteered to lead walks I imagined I would be pointing out the marvelous stone buildings that I saw everyday as I roamed the streets of Guelph. Mind you I roamed these streets in my car and as such I didn't even know Ward One existed. I never drove down those narrow streets. I rarely, if ever visited "The Ward" until I met with Dr. Crowley and he said "would you be willing to lead a Ward One walk?"

I had to go home and do homework.

And am I glad I did. It lead to this.

There are many fascinating stories here and this booklet tells not only of the buildings and the development of the area but also the people who lived here. Yes, there are many similarities to other cities (Toronto) that had a district called "The Ward"

It was here that cabinet minister John A. Macdonald bought a large tract of land in 1855 and proceeded to have it surveyed. He'd heard a rumour. Something about a railway?

Later the Guelph Junction Railway (1888) did much to create this working class area and with the help of J.W. Lyon (head of the World Publishing Company and boss to William Harvey!)  'free land' was granted to industry with the intention to sell the remaining lots to the workers.

This was before the days of zoning so you have factories and housing occupying the same area with no regard to health or sanitation. In "The Ward" you have this amazing mix of hard working 'honest' folk and also much of the seedier side of life; drugs, prostitution. Yup this is not a place where you send your kids to play. In fact I still come across people who tell me their parents told them to stay away from The Ward.

If you have an interest in bootlegging, prohibition and the Rocco Perri story this is the walk for you, BUT don't forget there are other stories here too. Stories of survival, faith and struggle. This booklet reflects all of it and is much more than just a "guide book" for a good walk.

You can of course experience this walk first hand every summer as the Guelph Arts Council volunteers lead you through these streets.

OK Jay play us out..