There are so many events going on over the next few weeks that celebrate our country’s 150th birthday that it’s very hard to fit even a small number of them in but it’s not often that a person gets a chance to view one of the surviving homes whose original owners made Edmonton what it is today. I’m talking about the Magrath Mansion in the historic Highlands community.
This home is about a block from where I live and I get to look at it as I take my pooch for a walk occasionally on Ada Boulevard, a wide street that overlooks the river valley. Now, lest you think I live in such a home (being in such close proximity), I don’t. Our community is a microcosm of architectural styles from 1912 to today. I’m referring to the skinny houses that pop up everywhere like pimples when you were a teenager. There are small 900 sq. ft. bungalows only blocks from this home but this home is and always will be the anchor for the neighbourhood.
This 5,500 sq. ft home was built in 1912 by developer William Magrath for a cost that is reputed to be between $76,000 and $85,000 (depending on the source). The economy wasn’t kind to the Magraths as the bottom of the real estate market plummeted in 1913 and then WW1 came along which further depressed the prices of homes. Not a good situation for a real estate developer.
In 1931 the City of Edmonton bought the house for $1,050. The home passed hands to the Ukrainian Episcopal Corp. for $25,000. In 2000 the house was purchased for $750,000 by Sid and Nellie Braeksma at Nellie’s urging. Today, after years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovation costs the house has been appraised at 9.7 million.
The Highland’s Historical Society, of which I am vice-president, has organized an open house for this Sunday, July 2nd between 4:00 and 8:00 pm. It is located at 6240 Ada Boulevard and the cost to enter is $10 at “the door”. The event is free to members of the Highlands Historical Society. You can walk throughout this beautiful home and see for yourself how the wealthy Magraths might have lived in 1912. It’s an amazing home – inside and out.
Sid Braeksma is also a car collector so he’s agreed to put some of his collection out on display in the yard. We’ll be having wagon rides (for free to paying guests). Magrath was Scottish so we’ve hired a piper to play music while you view the home and the gardens. Join us for a piece of birthday cake to celebrate the best country in the world’s 150th birthday.
I like to think that, should the ghost of William Magrath visit us on that special day and see how his home has been preserved and listen to the piped music of his homeland, he would approve.