Edmonton has a great history and has great old neighbourhoods with wonderful character homes. If you’d like to learn more about historic Edmonton neighbourhoods, read on. You can search for Edmonton homes in these historic neighbourhoods or I can assist you in finding a home in one of these wonderful old Edmonton areas.
A Walk through the Historical Groat Estates and West Oliver
The Buena Vista Building (1913)
Corner of 124 Street and 102 Avenue
Early Edmontonians brought with them the popular 19th century British taste for adorning their brick buildings with Italian motifs as seen in the decorative balcony rails and stone accents on The Buena Vista Building. Three and four story brick commercial blocks of similar design were a common sight along Jasper Avenue after the 1912-1914 building boom. In the residential West End neighborhoods, brick commercial blocks were less common, but the Buena Vista is nonetheless a fine example of this type of building in Edmonton.
The Buena Vista was built by investors who purchased this property from Malcolm Groat’s estate shortly after his death in 1912. Construction was barely complete when the real estate market crashed in early 1914. The investors never enjoyed the profit they had expected from the commercial block that was ideally situated along the streetcar line on 124 Street and lost it to foreclosure in 1930.
The building was for a time, home to renowned flyer “Wop” May. It has been a gathering place for generations. It has housed Edmonton institutions like Beans ‘n Barley Restaurant and Corner Drugs.
In 1994 Don and Silva Freeland purchased the Buena Vista, which was in need of some tender loving care. They converted the top two floors into a quaint cozy true to period Victorian bed and breakfast. Under the guidance of the Freeland’s the former suites have been transformed into grand Victorian bedrooms, each with a distinctive character. Wherever possible, the retrofit employs authentic features like replica pressed tin ceiling panels and intricately detailed linoleum wall panels.
Don’t miss a tour or even better stay at this elegantly appointed hostelry where the sophisticated historical motif and relaxed atmosphere provide soothing qualities for all who visit.
Carruthers Steel Bridge (1910)
102 Avenue & 126 Street
James Carruthers, a Montreal grain merchant and prolific entrepreneur purchased the Groat homestead from less successful real estate promoters in 1905. In 1909, he agreed to build a bridge 20 feet wide in exchange for the guarantee of a municipal street car route on 102 Avenue in to his Glenora subdivision.
City planners tried to convince Carruthers to build a 40 foot wide bridge. Not willing to invest any more money, Carruthers donated two parcels of parkland in the Westmount area to the city in exchange for municipal funds to cover the additional costs for a wider bridge. Four years later, the real estate market crashed, leaving the parkland absolutely valueless, but Carruthers’ steel bridge remains wide enough to handle 102 Avenue traffic more than eighty eight years later.
McCray’s Garage (Circa 1914)
12520 – 102 Avenue
Milton McCray opened his automobile repair and storage garage in 1915 and operated it until 1937. McCray’s location near the eastern end of the 102 Avenue shuttle street car run made the garage a favourite coffee stop for the motormen.
In 1941 the building was take over by the Chicago Vocational School which offered programs in diesel, automotive, refrigeration, welding, show card writing, photography and T.V. repair The school operated out of this building until 1970.
Wadhurst Road was the railroad bed of the Edmonton, Yukon, and Pacific Railway, which was originally conceived to carry gold prospectors to the Klondike. E, Y and P tracks were first laid in 1902 from the Strathcona, across the Low Level Bridge to a station on the Rossdale Flats. By 1907, the E, Y and P tracks ascended the river bank from Rossdale, ran above the Victoria Golf Course, and emerged at about 126 Street. The tracks ran along Wadhurst Road and headed east between 104 and 105 Avenues to the downtown CN station.
In the early years, passengers rode the E, Y and P across the river for a 25 cent fare. Passenger service was suspended in 1928 and the E, Y and P hauled freight until the early 1950’s when the line fell entirely into disuse. When the tracks were removed in1954, the houses which had faced the Groat Ravine, after turning their backs on the rail lines for over forty years, switched their front facades to face Wadhurst Road.
Villa Avenue: Entrance to Robber’s Roost
James Carruthers’ marketing schemes to attract the wealthiest of Edmonton’s families to Groat Estates were successful. He created a neighborhood of country estates on the very large irregularly shaped lots on Villa Avenue. He ensured that the area would remain intact by registering a caveat stipulating that all homes built here would be at least 25’ back from the street front and that they would all have minimum monetary value of $5,000 (a princely sum in 1911). The caveat disallowed any kind of trade, advertising or multiple dwelling buildings, and is still in place to this day.
Edmontonians took notice of the elite neighbourhood that was developing here and because of the high proportion of lawyers and businessmen who were establishing themselves on these estates, the area was nicknamed “Robbers’ Roost”.
The Ravina (1912)
10325 Villa Avenue
The Ravina was originally built for John McIntosh, one of the most successful real estates dealers of Edmonton’s first land boom.
McIntosh was born in Waterville, Quebec. He left home in 1900 and made his way across the continent, working in Colorado and Calgary, and arrived in Edmonton in 1902. He worked as a clerk and gradually, through careful investment, embarked on a career in the purchase of a farm that was to become the suburb of Calder.
After the bottom dropped out of Edmonton’s real estate market, McIntosh sought more stable sources of income.
In 1920 he became a land agent for the Hudson’s Bay Company and converted his fifteen room home to apartments named “The Ravina.”
McIntosh sold the Ravina in 1927.
In 1966, the owners of the Ravina removed the west wing of the house and converted it for use as a separate smaller home which stands next door.
The James Cornwall House (1912)
10330 – 127 Street
Colonel James Kennedy Cornwall (1870 – 1945), also known as “Peace River Jim”, built this mansion for his family with money he amassed in 1910. Peace River Jim was an adventurer who made fortunes and went bankrupt several times.
Although he has a long list of accomplishments, Cornwall is best known for his efforts to open northern Alberta for settlement. He set up trading posts and back-packed mail into the Peace River district and later helped open the area to air traffic. He became deeply involved with many native communities and a vocal activist for their causes. Jim spoke Cree, Slavey, Chippewayan, Dogrib and several Inuit dialects.
This 10,000 square foot house was designed by R.W. Lines and was luxuriously finished except for the library, which was left unfurnished for the comfort of natives who would visit the house to trade.
The Cornwall family lost the mansion to foreclosure in 1926.
Gile’s Grocery (Circa 1911)
12602 Stony Plain Road
This building was constructed in 1911 to accommodate the Giles’ grocery store on the street level and living space on the upper level. The wood frame building was typical of the simple, unadorned two storey commercial buildings that were built throughout Edmonton in the town’s early years. The original West End was primarily a residential neighborhood and therefore did not have many commercial buildings. Stony Plain Road was one of the pockets of commercial activity, as was 124 Street and the southern portion of 121 Street.
124 Street – Edward Street
This street became the centre of early West Edmonton commercial activity, due largely to a decision by the Edmonton Radial Railway Company in 1908 to run their northbound streetcar along it. Small groceries, confectionaries, butcher shops and so forth, provided basic shopping services to the West End along 124 Street. Larger purchases were made downtown since the streetcar provided convenient transportation.
Although the tracks were removed in 1948, electric trolley busses still mark the route of the electric streetcars which created the commercial nature of 124 Street. Edmonton’s street numbering system was standardized in 1914, but the old street names, such as Edward Street, did not fall out of colloquial use for some time.
124 Street has recently undergone a series of renovation projects which has seen the addition of wide, brick inlaid sidewalks, good sized linden trees on the street and boulevards, newly designed decorative light poles (which have been strategically placed to provide maximum coverage and eliminate dark spots) and most recently large flower barrels full of brightly colored flowers. It is a very pleasant, safe place to walk and explore all of the unique little owner operated shops which offer service second to none.
The Glenora Confectionary
Commercial buildings on 124 Street ran the gamut of popular turn of the century styles. This building recalls the spirit of boom town Edmonton. When false storefronts were added to swiftly constructed frame buildings to give the impression of larger buildings. Although it was originally built as a millinery and has served for many years as Larre’s Barber Shop, the building was the Glenora Confectionary for more than thirty Years.
Christ Church (1921)
12116 – 102 Avenue
Christ Church had its beginnings in a little wood frame structure on 116 Street.
This, the second version of Christ Church, was constructed in 1921 from the designs of parishioner William Blakely. Blakely’s Brother, Richard P. Blakely, designed government house and both brothers designed several fixtures within Christ Church.
W. Blakely based the design of the church on Tintern Abbey in Wales. Christ Church is unique since this type of tudor, country-cottage style architecture was normally used in private homes during the time period, and was not common in the city’s church architecture.
The Derwas Court Apartments (Circa 1914)
10146 - 121 Street
As the West End gained its reputation as “the place to be” for the “up and coming”, several elegant apartment buildings were constructed to accommodate single professionals. The Derwas Court Apartments began to rent suites in 1915 and continues to do so today.
The Derwas Court Apartments feature an interesting network of exterior balconies and staircases. Each suite has two entrances, a front door that opens from the main hallway, and a back kitchen door that opens onto the exterior staircases. The balconies lead off from the dining rooms.
Robertson Presbyterian Church (Robertson-Wesley United)
10209 – 123 Street
This church was one of the finest examples in Edmonton of the British immigrants’ taste for the monumentality and intricate decorative detail of Gothic architecture.
Despite the fact that fund raising and construction was started during the 1914 real estate crash, the parish of Robertson Presbyterian managed to build an impressive church. The building plans that were originally selected had to be discarded because they were out of the parish’s price range. Plans for this smaller church were purchased from the First Baptist Church in Calgary. Even though the building project was down scaled, the parish remained barely a step ahead of its debts for several years until the mortgage could be paid off.
The Robertson parish voted to join the United Church movement in 1925 and the name was changed to Robertson United. In the 1970’s Robertson amalgamated with Wesley United Church, to become Robertson-Wesley which today is also the site of the Edmonton Baroque Music Society.
*above information taken from the brochure: "A Walk through the Historical Groat Estates and West Oliver" Edmonton, AB
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