Between 1904 and 1912 there were bursts of exceptional growth, during which Edmonton grew very rapidly, causing real estate speculation. This boom, and the requisite increase in prices, made many of Edmonton's early pioneers wealthy. However, this speculation and over-saturation of available building sites eventually reached excessive proportions, causing the bottom to drop out of the real estate market in 1913 and the start of a slow downturn in the economy that would last until the First World War.
Effects on Architecture
These prosperous years had a profound effect on Edmonton’s architecture. An increase in personal incomes and additional investment from the new province allowed for greater architectural experimentation and therefore more ornate buildings because the strong local economy could provide larger budgets. Also, continued railway construction improved the availability of supplies and facilitated the arrival of settlers and entrepreneurs.
Along with the many newcomers came the various architectural influences in buildings now being constructed in Edmonton. From Ontario and the British Isles came the traditional English styles, such as Tudor/Queen Anne and Edwardian. American influences included less ornate styles, such as Foursquare houses and Chicago commercial buildings. There were also European influences in the grandiose Beaux Arts, Gothic Revival and Renaissance Revival buildings constructed at the time.
While commercial and public buildings were making use of the new concrete and steel building materials, and higher-end residential structures were being made of brick, more common dwellings were still made of wood. In 1909 the City implemented a bylaw to regulate the construction, alteration, repair and inspection of buildings. To ensure the safety of citizens, this extensive document described the type of construction required for specific types of buildings in different fire zones.
The early 1900s were a period of growth and expansion, both for a new province and its new capital city. Edmonton was incorporated as a city on October 8, 1904 with a population of 8,350. By 1911, there were almost 25,000 people in Edmonton, which was mostly a result of continued agricultural immigration to the areas surrounding the city. Another reason for the increase in population was that in 1906 Edmonton was named the capital of the newly inaugurated province of Alberta. This new found prestige was augmented in 1908 when the University of Alberta held its inaugural classes, both non-denominational and co-educational, in McKay Avenue School. The establishment of Edmonton as a political and academic centre, combined with the rapid growth of the railways, resulted in the city becoming a desired destination for those heading west.
Between 1900 and 1910, the HBC sold off part of its reserve land west of Queens Avenue (modern 100 St), and as a result the city grew tremendously. The fertile soil and cheap available land helped attract settlers, further establishing Edmonton as a major regional commercial and agricultural centre.
As the real estate business boomed and speculation rose, the city developed multiple brickyards and sawmills. Immigrants brought experience in building with concrete and steel, which replaced wood especially in public structures. Downtown development moved westward along Jasper Avenue into the Hudson's Bay Reserve, and Boyle Street was supplanted as the new urban centre. With commerce and commercial construction booming, many new communities, such as Glenora, Highlands and Westmount, were built as the economy gained momentum. Several communities were annexed during this period, including North Edmonton and West Edmonton.
Edmonton was at the height of its prosperity in 1912 when the HBC decided to sell the remainder of its land. In the same year, Edmonton amalgamated with the City of Strathcona. As a result, the city's boundaries expanded in all directions, including south of the North Saskatchewan River for the first time. In 1913, Edmonton’s prosperity was clearly evident with the completion of many major building projects including the Alberta Legislature Building, Robertson Presbyterian Church, and the High Level Bridge.
This long, narrow building owed its shape to the high cost of land during Edmonton's first real estate boom.
Among the most iconic buildings in Edmonton is the Legislature, which overlooks the river valley and is the seat of power for the provincial government.
The Ash Residence is a 1912 Foursquare home with Craftsman influences.
and Pembina Halls
These three Collegiate Gothic buildings are an important fixture on the University of Alberta campus.
This early Moderne building was originally a fire hall before an extensive renovation in the 1930s.
The unusual combination of clinker brick and Foursquare design makes this home unique in Edmonton.
The C. W. Cross Residence was a 1912 Tudor Revival home located in Glenora.
This small jewel of a building holds its own nestled among downtown high-rises.
The home of architect and University of Alberta professor Cecil Burgess is a well-preserved example of Craftsman style.
The Chown Residence was one of several Foursquares built in The Highlands before WWI.
This quaint Tudor style church has served the Anglican community since the 1920s.
The "temporary" Civic Block served as Edmonton's City Hall longer than any other building to date.
Edmonton's first proper Court House was built in 1912 and demolished in the 1970s.
Constructed in 1912, the Cristall House was home to Edmonton's first Jewish resident, Abraham Cristall.
The Post Office was Edmonton's tallest building when completed in 1910. It was demolished in 1972.
Storage Company, Ltd.
This four-storey brick cold-storage building is a relatively unadorned example of a building from what collectively became Edmonton's early warehouse district.
The home of pioneering women's rights activist Emily Murphy has strong elements of the Craftsman style.
Influential citizens John A. McDougall and Richard Secord erected this four-storey office block in 1905 on the location that stills bears its name over 100 years later.
This Edwardian style building housed the studio of Ernest Brown, one of Alberta's most famous early photographers.
This 1912 Gothic Revival building is the largest Presbyterian church in Edmonton.
Elegant Beaux Arts buildings were constructed between 1885 and 1930 especially by those wanting to portray an image of prosperity.
Classical Revival architecture is a romantic style that makes use of elements found in Greek and Roman buildings from antiquity.
Clinker bricks were valued for their unique appearance and used extensively in Edmonton, unlike most other places where they were considered garbage.
Collegiate Gothic architecture is associated with education, and is often found on university campuses, including the University of Alberta.
The Craftsman style was similar to Arts and Crafts but less detailed. The value of natural materials and truth in form are still very evident.
The Edwardian style was popular in Edmonton in the first decades of the 20th century and was most commonly seen in commercial buildings.
The iconic Flat Iron style is easily identifiable by its triangular footprint a flat roof.
Foursquare homes were very popular in Edmonton in the 1910s. There are many surviving examples that provide wonderful character to some of the city’s older neighbourhoods.
The Gothic Revival style in Edmonton is most commonly seen in churches, such as St. Joachim’s or Robertson-Wesley.
Log buildings were among the first constructed in the Edmonton area. Although seemingly rudimentary, they required considerable skill to build well.
Edmonton has only a few examples of Prairie style homes, identified by their low roofs, banks of windows and horizontal emphasis.
The Queen Anne style was popular in the late 1890s and early 1900s, but not many examples have survived in Edmonton.
The Scottish Baronial style can be seen in some of Edmonton’s most iconic structures, such as the Hotel Macdonald or the Provincial Legislature.
Tudor Revival architecture was popular in Edmonton in the 1930s, and can evoke responses for its storybook qualities.