The Highlands Historical Society has been active in the Highlands neighbourhood of Edmonton, Alberta for over 25 years.
Acknowledging that the Highlands contains some of Edmonton’s best-preserved historic homes and streetscapes, a group of like-minded Highlands’ residents created the Highlands Historical Foundation in 1988. The initial focus of the 13 member board was to encourage residents to seek provincial historic designation of homes & other buildings.
David Leonard, a provincial archivist, also began conducting walking tours in the Highlands. Other early projects included the annual Festival of Lights, research on historic gardens, an annual historical buildings art show, and building the resource library and archives collection.
The Highlands Historical Foundation newsletter was conceived and distributed to residents and out of town members in 1988. The newsletter, now called “The Highlands Record”, continues today as an important way to highlight and communicate the local history of the Highlands and profile local residents, businesses and homes.
In 1993, a walking tour guide was published in collaboration with the Edmonton Historic Board, the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, Northlands and the provincial government. The walking tour guide was updated and expanded in 2011. The new walking tour includes some new heritage homes “Worth a Look”, including some residences outside of the traditional boundaries of the Highlands neighbourhood. The walkability of the Highlands, the diversity of the architectural styles and the large concentration of restored built heritage makes the Highlands a very attractive place to live or visit.
Recording of oral histories began in the late eighties and continues to be a priority program and focus. To date, dozens of longtime residents have been interviewed, their stories recorded and transcribed and their histories shared with City of Edmonton Archives. The HHF newsletter continues to highlight the stories resulting from the oral histories and, as a result, the newsletter is often referred to fondly by members as collectible.
2005 was the inception of the popular, members only, ”At Home in the Highlands” program. Additionally, open houses are offered to the public at a fee during the Historic Festival & Doors Open Edmonton. These events take place because of the Highlands home-owners’ generosity. They contribute heavily to the HHS’s fundraising efforts.
With changing goals and mature well established programs, the Executive board of the HHF determined a revision of the foundation’s bylaws were required. The goal of the revision exercise was to closer align the bylaws with the vision and programs of the current Foundation. With the revision of the bylaws in 2009, the HHF also revised it’s legal name to Highlands Historical Society Edmonton (HHS).
In 2003, the HHF launched their first website with the goal to publish feature articles and to help reach out to a broader audience. The communications strategy continued to evolve with the changing needs of the members and with the advance of technology. In 2010, the HHS updated their visual identity with the launch of a new logo and tag line, release of a new electronic newsletter and the use of social media. Then in 2012, this website was updated to the site you see today.
The Decorative plaque program launched in 2009 was an instant success. This joint initiative with the City of Edmonton, enables Highlands residents who own a home 50 years or older and provide the name of the home’s original owner, the original home owner’s occupation and the date the home was constructed. To date there are over 120 decorative plaques proudly mounted on homes all around the the neighbourhood.
In celebration of the Highland’s neighbourhood centennial, the HHS hired Edmonton’s Historian Laureate, Ken Tingley, to author a book about the history of the Highlands. The book, released in April 2012, is a treasured keepsake for many highlands residents and serves to solidify the appreciation of this fine neighbourhood.