Urban Growth: 1905-1913

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.

Historical Context

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.