McCrae House National Historic Site of Canada

Guelph, Ontario
Corner view of the McCrae House National Historic Site of Canada, showing the front elevation, 1990. (© Parks Canada Agency/ Agence Parcs Canada, 1990.)
Main elevation
(© Parks Canada Agency/ Agence Parcs Canada, 1990.)
Address : 108 Water St., Guelph, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1966-05-25
  • 1850 to 1860 (Construction)
  • 1872 to 1873 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Col. John McCrae  (Person)
Other Name(s):
  • McCrae House  (Designation Name)
DFRP Number: 56540 00


Existing plaque:  108 Water Street, Guelph, Ontario

This limestone cottage was the birthplace of John McCrae, author of In Flanders Fields, the famous poem written in May 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres. Built in 1858, the house is a typical mid-nineteenth-century Ontario cottage with its trellised verandah and cedar shingle roof . The exterior has been carefully restored to its appearance in the 1870s, when it was the McCrae family home.

Description of Historic Place

McCrae House National Historic Site of Canada is a mid-nineteenth-century stone cottage situated at 108 Water St. overlooking a park bordering the Speed River at the south end of Guelph, Ontario. The house is noted as the birthplace of the author of ''In Flanders Fields'', Canadian poet Col. John McCrae. The official recognition refers to the house on its lot.

Heritage Value

McCrae House was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1966 for its significance to the history of architecture; and because it is the birthplace of John McCrae.

Canadian poet Col. John McCrae was born in McCrae House on 20 November 1872. McCrae himself was designated a figure of national historic significance in 1946 for the creation of the poem, ''In Flanders Fields'', written in 1915 on the battlefields of Ypres, Belgium. This poem, published anonymously in the British magazine Punch, became one of the most celebrated poems of the First World War, and has made the poppy a lasting symbol of the soldiers who died during that war – a toll that included McCrae himself. McCrae’s family left this house a year after his birth, although he continued to live in Guelph before qualifying as a physician in Toronto then serving in the Canadian Army Medical Corps in Europe. The house, built in the 1850-1860 period, has been somewhat modified over the years.

The heritage value of McCrae House National Historic Site of Canada resides primarily in its association with Col. John McCrae as illustrated by its identity as a modest, middle-class nineteenth-century Ontario residence, and in particular by retention of features associated with the period of McCrae’s occupation, 1872-1873.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, May 1966, July 1999, December 2003.

Character-Defining Elements

Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
the rectangular footprint of the main house massed under two distinct rooflines, the original 1850-1860s single-storey portion under a hipped roof, and a later one-and-a-half-storey addition under a pitched roof with the main entry on the gable end; its prominent central door with top and side-lights; the presence of appendages including an open verandah across the front and shed-like rear additions; the stone construction; its centre-hall first floor layout; evidence of its pre-1875 interior materials, forms and finishes such as mouldings, doorways, plaster walls, floors, staircases, fireplaces; evidence of the pre-1875 interior layout and spatial volumes including basement rooms; its patterns of access and circulation, including the rear cellarway; its siting set back from the street on a grassed and treed lot with outbuildings; surviving landscape elements from the 1872-1873 period; viewscapes across the park to the Speed River; the house’s setting in a sympathetic residential neighbourhood.