Tuesday 26 February 2013

St. George's Square

This panoramic postcard depicts the epicenter of downtown Guelph, namely St. George's Square, looking north.  The street to the left is Upper Wyndham St., whereas the street on the right is Douglas Street.

This postcard is an unusual one because it is, so far, the only double postcard in my collection.  That is, it is the width of two standard postcards.  If you look in the middle of the card, you can see a crease where it is designed to be folded in half, with the picture on the inside.  I suppose this arrangement makes sense since it leaves the destination address visible outside to the mail handlers.

The card was printed by the Warwick Bro's & Rutter of Toronto, which we have seen before.  The card was not sent or postmarked, so the date of production is unclear.  However, the scene itself can be dated by clues from the structures depicted in it.

For example, note the tower of the "Old Post Office" in the center of the picture.  In A Picture History of Guelph (p. 56), Robert Stewart notes that the clock was installed in the tower in 1906.  Since the tower is shown with its clock, it cannot be older that that.

Notice also that the streetcars in the picture are diverted around the fountain and plantings in the octagonal island in the middle of the Square.  (The fountain was known as "Blacksmith Fountain" and has since been moved to another location.)  A photo from the Guelph Public Library database, taken of the Guelph "Old Boys Reunion" in 1908, shows that the island had been replanted strictly with grass and restructured into an oval shape, with its long axis aligned with Wyndham St.  So, the postcard, with its octagonal island, cannot be newer than that.

Therefore, let's say that the photo in the postcard was taken ca. 1907.

One of the most basic questions about St. George's Square is, "How did it get that name?"  In the postcard, if you look down Douglas Street to the right of the Old Post Office, you can see the spire of St. George's Anglican Church reaching upwards at the end of the block.  In fact, St. George's Church was originally located in the middle of the Square, right about where the Fountain later stood.  As noted in the History of St. George's Parish (p. 3), John Galt, the founder of Guelph, had "set aside for the Anglicans a plot of rising ground where they might build their church."  The first St. George's was a frame building, followed by a stone structure on the same site.  However, a third and perhaps more convenient St. George's Church was built from 1870 on Woolwich St., at the end of Douglas.  This move allowed the creation of St. George's Square, a generous public space in the middle of the city, named in honour of the structure that made way for it.

St. George's Square remains the middle of downtown Guelph, although its configuration and environment have been profoundly altered, as the current Google Streetview image shows:

View Larger Map

There are plenty more views of St. George's Square, so we shall return!

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