Our Beginnings…and Destiny

John Galt felled a tree to commemorate the founding of Guelph near this spot on the Speed River on April 23, 1827. “As a novelist, dramatist and poet, Galt gave us a cultural outlook from the beginning. He dwelt not only on the necessities of life but on elements that nourish and enrich the mind and heart. For over 180 years the people of Guelph have acted on his principles and continue to do so.” – Gloria Dent, Guelph.

In 1882 the Speed Skating Rink opened on the site of River Run Centre where fancy dress carnivals and balls were regular fare. In later years the Speed Skating Rink was used as a warehouse, and in 1991 the building was destroyed by fire. Stones from the front of the building were kept for reconstruction of a façade in the parkland in front of River Run. Four years later, in 1995, construction of the new performing arts centre began. River Run officially opened on October 4, 1997.

Our History Illuminated

A dramatic copper art installation at the main entrance captures the spirit of the River Run site with luminous, multilayered images. Created by Guelph artist Peter Johnston, Passages traces the history of the land along the Speed River, going back to the Attawadaron, the aboriginal people who lived here before European settlement. John Galt’s portrait and excerpts from Galt’s journal dramatize Guelph’s founding in 1827. Railway tracks, scale-model cars, the first town plan and an aerial view of the Church of Our Lady represent different facets of the city’s history.

Our Panoramic View

From the main lobby, the Canada Company Hall, an inviting scene unfolds: terraces, a walking path, trees, a rolling lawn sloping down to the Speed River, and a spacious river overlook. The dignified limestone façade of the Speed Skating Rink, which stood on this site for more than 100 years, is incorporated into this idyllic landscape, named John Galt Park. The pathway along the river is part of the Trans Canada Trail system.

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