Menesetung Bridge

 

The Core Area of the Port of Goderich 


The unique layout of Goderich's core encompasses eight primary streets radiating from an octagon bounded by eight business blocks. This octagon, marketplace or civic square, with a park at its centre, is popularly know as the "The Square". Four streets intersecting at right angles - Victoria, Nelson, Waterloo and Elgin - form the outer edges of the core with the octagon in the centre.

Central Streets"The Square", "West Street", and "The Outer Square" are three heritage conservation districts within this 65 acre core area. They make up this market town's historic shopping, business, civic, arts and entertainment district which continues to thrive today.

The original concept for the core area has been attributed to John Galt, the Canada Company's first commissioner and Deputy Provincial Surveyor, John McDonald. Goderich is a rare example of a town plan that was designed and surveyed in advance of any construction. Growth was not by accident, nor left to individual tastes, but planned especially to suit the flat ground upon which the core stands. The original town at the harbour's edge was founded in 1827, but by the date of the town's incorporation in 1850, commerce had made its way up the bluff boasting over 70 shops, offices, churches, hotels and homes along 6000 m of streetscape. Today, there are over 200 businesses and services within this compact street design, all within minutes of each other. Some businesses have been in continuous operation for over 100 years.

Contrary to popular belief, Goderich's town plan was NOT switched with one meant for Guelph. It is likely that this myth arose due to a struggle of wills between John Galt and the Canada Company directors who were determined to name present-day Guelph, 'Goderich', in honour of Lord Goderich. Galt, a royalist, was equally determined that his first settlement in Upper Canada be called 'Guelph', in honour of the royal family, and the second settlement on Lake Huron, take the name Goderich. Galt's version prevailed since property deeds had been issued and any change would have required passage of a colonial legislative act. The directors, however, soon afterward dismissed John Galt. The town plans for these two communities, however, were always intended for where they now are found.

Goderich's primary radiating streets, 99 feet in width, converge onto the circular road which is also 99 feet wide. Secondary streets are 66 feet wide. The central park covers about three acres. Added to the clarity of the radial design and ordered symmetry, is the alignment of the eight principal roads with the points of the compass.

Aerial photo of the Downtown Core by Devin SturgeonThe octagonal-shaped park at the centre was occupied for nearly 100 years by the original Huron County Courthouse, an Italianate brick building of imposing scale, massing and elegance. It was replaced in 1954 by the present building. Ringed by eight commercial blocks, The Square reflects a vision of town centre of classical design and elegance, possibly owing inspiration to formalized urban spaces like the London Nash Terraces and Bath Crescents, of England. The 1890s saw The Square come closest to achieving the elegance its radial plan promised. Although much has changed, a significant portion of the aesthetic and architectural value evident at that time, is still largely intact and still deserving of on-going maintenance and preservation.

This fast growing town was the centre of a prosperous agricultural region and by the 1850s, had established itself as the social, economic and administrative centre for the District of Huron, an area much larger than the current County of Huron. Goderich was also the headquarters of the Canada Company which was responsible for opening up the million-acre Huron Tract for settlement.