The Poor House

The Wellington County Museum and Archives is a National Historic Site. It is located in a building that stands as the oldest remaining House of Industry in Canada. It was built in 1877 as a "Poor House" or place of refuge for the poor, homeless, and destitute people in Wellington County. It operated as a Poor House and Industrial Farm until 1947 when it became a County Home for the Aged. In 1974 it was transformed into the Wellington County Museum and Archives. A new Archives wing opened in 2010.

 

 

 

 The Museum and Archives was presented the 2013 Business Beautification Award by the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce for our work on the House of Industry and Refuge cemetery and 1877 Barn.

 

If These Walls Could Speak: The House of Industry and Refuge, 1877-1947

 

This exhibit, featured throughout the Museum, provides glimpses into the lives and activities of the people who lived, worked, and often died here. Originally called the "Poor House," the building is now home to the Wellington County Museum and Archives. 

Attitudes towards poverty, charity and a community's social responsibilities are reflected in the many compelling stories and photos presented here.

This exhibit was the recipient of an Ontario Museum Association Award of Excellence in 2007.

 

If These Walls Could Speak exhibit image

 

1877 Barn
Photo Gallery: WCMA_1877 Barn will appear here on the public site.

 

The House of Industry and Refuge was built to run as a self-sufficient farm. Even today the original 1877 barn is still on site. Thirty of the sites fifty acres were under cultivation. The Industrial Farm would offset the costs of providing food and shelter for the inmates, paying staff wages and maintenance of the site.

The 1877 barn was built by Mr. John Taylor, of Elora, and Richard Ferguson.

In 2011, the Barn was open as a public exhibit and rental facility space (on a seasonal basis). The foundation was excavated and new drainage tiles were installed, interior walls were reinforced, and lighting was added. The bottom stalls were open in 2017, after extensive renovations reflecting the structure and the floorplan of the dairy operation in 1941.

1877 Barn.pdf

Special group tours of the Barn, the Museum, and the Poor House Cemetery can be arranged for a nominal fee.

Book Tour

House of Industry Cemetery

Photo Gallery: WCMA_House of Industry Cemetery will appear here on the public site.

Between 1877 and 1947, over 1500 destitute men, women and children sought refuge at the Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge, or the 'Poorhouse' as everyone called it.

Built as an Industrial Farm, the site included a sixty-bed house, thirty acres of crops and a barn for livestock. Many of the inmates were admitted because of poor health or advanced age and had no one to care for them. At the edge of the property, a one-acre cemetery was established for those who had no family to claim their remains at death.

There are 271 men, women and children buried here. Please note not all death certificates have been found.

 

Death Certificates

Between 1877 and 1947, over 1500 destitute men, women and children sought refuge at the Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge, or the 'Poorhouse' as everyone called it.

Built as an Industrial Farm, the site included a sixty-bed house, thirty acres of crops and a barn for livestock. Many of the inmates were admitted because of poor health or advanced age and had no one to care for them. At the edge of the property, a one-acre cemetery was established for those who had no family to claim their remains at death.

There are 271 men, women and children buried here.

Death Certificates

It is a cemetery like no other.

Between 1877 and 1947, over 1500 destitute men, women and children sought refuge at the Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge, or the 'Poorhouse' as everyone called it.

Built as an Industrial Farm, the site included a sixty-bed house, thirty acres of crops and a barn for livestock. Many of the inmates were admitted because of poor health or advanced age and had no one to care for them. At the edge of the property, a one-acre cemetery was established for those who had no family to claim their remains at death.

There are 271 men, women and children buried here.

Death Certificates

It is a cemetery like no other.


It is a cemetery like no other.

 

Pump House

The water supply system for the Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge




In 1884, eight acres of land across the road from the House of Industry and Refuge was purchased at $400 and the spring water it provided was pumped to the building by means of a hydraulic ram.

In 1889 troubles with the water supply began.  "The hydraulic ram, at present in use, does not furnish enough water...a windmill or some other power to pump water up to the House must be resorted to..." (Council Minutes, pg.20, Committee Report, 1889).

In 1890 a windmill was purchased and two iron tanks were placed in the attic, one in the main building and the other one in the wash house. The collected spring water was pumped into the tanks and supplied to the kitchen, laundry and water closets by gravity.

 

Pump House.pdf  

 

Historical Grounds
 Heritage Garden imageThe Gardens surrounding the Museum are an outstanding feature and attraction in themselves. Bring a picnic lunch, relax and recharge in our gardens and rolling acreage.

Butterfly Garden

This garden is designed to attract butterflies. A variety of plants are included here to offer food for the adult (nectar), host plants for laying eggs and feed for the hatched larvae (caterpillars). The garden faces south to maximize the exposure to the sun and provide a place for the butterflies to sun themselves. Some of the species grown here are purple coneflower, wild bergamot, bronze fennel, hollyhock, New England aster, yarrow and globe thistle.

 

Vegetable Garden

The Vegetable Garden is a demonstration garden used for education programmes and located west of the frame barn. The selection of plants is based on research of the produce that was grown on this property when it was the County House of industry and Refuge.

We grow potatoes, onions, beets, cabbage, carrots, turnips, peas, beans, lettuce, cucumbers and strawberries.

Woodland Garden

This garden contains a selection of woodland plants and trees representative of species growing in this area before European settlement. We have milkweed, trillium, wild ginger, white cedar, Grey dogwood and Virginia creeper and many other species on display in this cool, shaded natural display.

 

Cottage Garden

This collection illustrates plants selected primarily for practical use. The plants in this garden were grown as a source of food, medicine, fragrance, textile fiber and dye. Examples of plants include peppermint, lovage, horseradish, lavender, chives, calendula, dill and flax. There is also a small orchard of crab apples to represent the large apple orchard that was on the property when it was a working farm. 

 

Victorian Garden

This garden reflects the Victorian taste for formal
structure and continuous colour from spring through fall. Incorporating native and introduced species, Victorian gardeners selected plants primarily for decorative use. The display includes black-eyed Susan, bergamot, lungwort, candy tuft, wisteria, peonies and a variety of heritage roses.

 

 

 

 

© 2018 County of Wellington, 74 Woolwich St. Guelph, Ontario N1H 3T9, T 519.837.2600, F 519.837.1909