A Most Excellent Program…

2009 plaques

Did you know that over 50 homes in the Highlands neighbourhood are on the City of Edmonton Heritage Inventory? These homes have met the City’s criteria for historical significance and homeowners can apply for designation. The criteria are listed on the City of Edmonton website. https://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/edmonton_archives/historic-resources.aspx

If a home is listed on the City’s Historic inventory, the owners are eligible to apply for historic designation. One of the biggest benefits of owning a designated property is the financial assistance the homeowner may receive from the city to restore character – defining elements of the property. Historic designation also protects the home against demolition or large scale changes. In addition, at five year intervals, the program allows for homeowners to recoup up to one third of the expenses of maintaining their heritage home. The Rose Residence is one of several homes that have received municipal historic designation in the Highlands.

Ira W Stephens House

The Ira W. Stephens residence in the Highlands is the most recent addition to the list of designated properties in Edmonton. The owners have taken advantage of the grants available and have done a beautiful job of restoring this classic Craftsman.

If your home isn’t on the inventory, but you would still like to recognize its contribution to the community of Highlands, consider getting a plaque to commemorate your home’s first owners. In 2009, the Highlands Historical Society, lead by David Locky, began its own heritage recognition program.

Dave the piper HHS St Pat's day 160318

This program is a partnership between the Highlands Historical Society and the City of Edmonton Heritage Conservation Unit.  It recognizes homes that are 50 years or older. Once the homeowner has done the required research to confirm the date the home was built and the name and occupation of the original owners they can apply for a plaque.

This program has been extremely successful as evidenced by the number of plaques that are sprinkled throughout the neighbourhood.  Since its initiation, approximately 6-8 plaques have been added each year to homes in the Highlands and Bellevue neighbourhoods. (A little known fact is that William Magrath and Bidwell Holgate also initiated the Bellevue sub-division.)

Highlands School Plaque

Over the period of nine years since the program’s beginning, the only change has been with regards to the shape. Early plaques do not sport the HHS logo but more recent ones do so the style is slightly different. This June, the HHS will be presenting the Highlands School with a plaque to recognize its important role in this community. We are so glad that this building will be preserved.

So, if you have a home in the Highlands or Bellevue neighbourhoods that is more than 50 years old, consider applying for a plaque. Plaques capture the history that exists in our neighbourhoods, and provide a tantalizing glimpse into the lives and careers of the people who have walked our streets, and built our community.  For more information on the program check  here. Deadline for summer applications is May 31st, 2018.

Melanie Moore

A Final Look at The Gibbard Block Before…

Gibbard Block

The Gibbard Block – soon to be restored to its former glory!

Take a good look at this picture, because in no time, this soon-to-be restored building will have changed a great deal. Gone will be the awnings and facade on the main floor as we see it today. Instead we will see the facade as those who lived in 1913 Highlands saw it.

The Gibbard Block has had many lives over the past 105 years. It started as a luxury apartment building with high end retail on the main floor – both befitting the exclusive community envisioned by developers Magrath and Holgate.
Gibbard Block Pressed Tin Ceiling Main Floor

The original tin ceiling from one of the original businesses in the Gibbard Block still survives and will be preserved.

Starting in 1913, the City of Edmonton saw a catastrophic drop in the value of real estate that was brought on by several factors including the stock market crash and two world wars. The building changed hands often and by the 1940s, the once lovely apartments were worn and neglected. But it survived.

The building experienced a new life in 1982 when Ernst and Carole Eder bought the Gibbard Block and opened La Boheme, a respected restaurant and bed and breakfast. Many fond memories of spending special occasions there were shared by people who attended the Highlands Historical Society’s open house on March 31st.
Gibbard Block floors and baseboards

Original millwork exists under layers of paint but the floors are well preserved in many rooms such as this one.

Few original remnants of the building’s former glory remain. Of note is the pressed tin ceiling on the main floor. The rooms on the second and third floor have original solid oak flooring, mostly intact baseboards and trim, and interior five-panel doors.
Gibbard Block clawfoot tub

Most of the bathrooms contained the original clawfoot tubs.

The claw foot tubs are original even if the pedestals sinks are not. Each suite was unique; airy and full of light thanks to the many windows that graced each room.  Natural lighting was also provided in the hallways thanks to the skylight on the third floor. A   prominent feature in 1913, it will be restored by the new owners.
Gibbard Block Boiler1

The original boiler still lives in the basement.

Although we couldn’t provide tours of the basement due to safety concerns, our photographer Ted Smith took pictures of the original boiler. It’s still in use today and it was working hard on the cool spring day of our open house.
Acetylene Generator3

Carbide lamps, or acetylene gas lamps, are simple lamps that produce and burn acetylene (C2H2) which is created by the reaction of calcium carbide (CaC2) with water. Acetylene gas lamps were used to illuminate buildings, as lighthouse beacons, and as headlights on motor-cars and bicycles.

Another object of interest was the acetylene generator (shown above). In 1912 it provided reliable illumination to all the suites  at a time when electricity was anything but consistent. It is highly unusual to find such machinery intact and it is hoped that it will find a home in the Reynolds-Alberta Museum.
The Highlands Historical Society would like to thank the following people: the volunteers who helped make this event a success, Ted Smith who took many photographs for our use including the ones in this blog, the almost 300 visitors who came to see the building and share their stories and memories, and Sparrow Capital for granting us this opportunity to glimpse the past.
We look forward to the building’s future.


Don’t Miss this Open House: the Gibbard Block

Gibbard Block

The Gibbard Block – soon to be restored to its former glory!

Are you looking for something to do Easter weekend? Well, we have the perfect outing for you! Join us for the pre-construction viewing of the interior of the Gibbard Block, including the main, second and third floors. See the interior of this iconic Highlands building before it is restored and renovated. You’ll see original woodwork throughout, stained glass features, and full interiors of the suites on the second and third floors. After the tour you can meet the new owners, Sparrow Capital , and view their plans for the restoration and renovation of this historic building.

Date: Saturday, March 31st 2-5 p.m.

Location: Gibbard Block (site of former La Boheme) 6427-112 Avenue

Hosts: Highlands Historical Society, in collaboration with Sparrow Capital. www.gibbardblock.com

Cost: Free for members of the Highlands Historical Society. $5.00 for non-members.( Any funds raised will support the future activities of the Highlands Historical Society).

Note: The tour involves several flights of stairs, and is not wheel-chair accessible.

What’s in a Name?

HHSpics 020

How do you choose a name that appeals to the people you want to attract to build homes in your subdivision?

A lot of time and effort goes into the naming of an area. Sometimes it’s best to ask for help in the form of a contest! This excerpt is from “My Heart’s in the Highlands” by Ken Tingley.

Magrath and Holgate needed a name “that will suitably designate this property and be consistent with the high class of residence that will be erected as it has been decided to place a building restriction of $2,500 upon the sites.” No lots were to be sold until the name had been selected. It was reported that already this large property, bounded on the south by the North Saskatchewan River and on the north by Alberta Avenue, was “rapidly being cleared by the new owners….”

Such contests were fairly common in the years before the First World War. The month before, on February 4, the Edmonton Daily Capital and Saturday News & Alberta Homesteader, offered a grand prize of a $600 Nordheimer piano for the “candidate” who obtained the most new subscribers for the Capital. There was another piano as second prize, and an array of “district prizes.” This contest, in the newspaper favoured by Magrath, Holgate & Company, was probably the inspiration for the contest.

HHSpics 016

People came to visit the new subdivision of the Highlands by car and by tram.

Daily advertisements appeared in the local newspapers, warning that only five days, four days, three days remained to enter the contest. The contest closed at midnight the following Saturday, September 17. On September 19 the five judges were to meet “in a private room, and after being locked in securely will open up the huge lists of names sent in and then each coupon will be thoroughly examined.” These five prestigious judges were Judge H.C. Taylor; D.S. MacKenzie, Deputy Minister of Education; T.M Turnbull, Manager of the Bank of Commerce; E.C. Bowker, Manager of the Dominion Bank; and H. Bewlay Stevens, the Advertising Manager of the Edmonton Bulletin.

Advertisements reported on 20 September 1910 that, “owing to the extraordinary number of Coupons sent in for our name contest, it is impossible to announce the winner until tomorrow afternoon.” Two contest entrants suggested the name “Highlands,” S. Loughlin and Mary MacKenzie, but after consideration Miss Loughlin won the prize since the other entry was dated September 9, and the winning entry on September 4. Miss Loughlin then called at the Magrath and Holgate office, was identified, and awarded the gold. “The prize is now on view in our window,” it was announced. “The Highlands” became the official name for the new subdivision on the autumnal equinox, 21 September 1910.”

So now you know – what’s in a name.

This Old Edmonton House Seminars

This Old Edmonton House

Spring courses start soon!

Houses that are more than 50 years of age often have issues that are not easily addressed by trades and designers who deal with contemporary buildings. This may include questions around mechanical systems, foundations, restoration of flooring and millwork, historic colours, repairing plaster walls and so much more…

Help is on the way. Every year the City of Edmonton’s Heritage Planners put on a series of seminars that were created especially for old house owners. Learn how to research the history of your home at the City Archives – then you might want to apply for one of the Highlands Historical Society’s plaques for your home!

New this year (April 23rd) is “Historic Interiors”, a tour of Rutherford House by the University of Alberta led by Johanne Yakula – one of the Highlands Historical Society’s own board members.

These are excellent courses and the prices charged are nominal. For more information on how you can register, click here: This Old Edmonton House. 

Hope to see you there!