George Heath Macdonald

“The firm of MacDonald and Magoon formed what must be called the most prolific if not the most successful architectural firm in the history of Edmonton.” Historian Percy Johnson, 1994.

Magoon & MacDonald (1912-1921)

MacDonald & Magoon (1922-1941)

Born on Prince Edward Island in 1883 but determined to avoid local career options, George Heath MacDonald honed his skills as an artist. In 1900 he moved to Sydney, Nova Scotia to work as a draughtsman with the Dominion Iron & Steel Company under the direction of the Chief Architect Herbert Alton Magoon. Obviously impressed by MacDonald’s skill, and attracted to the rapid development in the west, Magoon asked MacDonald to accompany him to Edmonton in 1904. MacDonald worked as a draughtsman and student architect under Magoon while completing his high school matriculation at Alberta College, and then while attending McGill’s School of Architecture where he studied under Percy Nobbs. Back in Edmonton, the association of Magoon & MacDonald became official in 1912. Quite early in their alliance, the partners settled into the highly successful practice of Magoon acting as supervising architect and business manager, while MacDonald focused on the architectural design of their contracts. This reflects their individual training experience and talents; having graduated from McGill in 1911 with highest honours, MacDonald “was a member of that transitional generation of Canadian architects between office-trained practitioners and professionals educated within the programs then developing at various Canadian universities” observes historian Percy Johnson, while Magoon’s practical training centred on business skills and engineering. As Magoon approached 60 years of age, the partners formally recognized MacDonald’s increasing responsibilities in the firm by reversing the name of their business to MacDonald & Magoon in 1922. Magoon retired in 1938. MacDonald retired the firm name in 1941, but continued in private practice until his death in 1961.

MacDonald & Magoon were well known for their ability to adapt to the wishes of their clients, their solid designs, and detailed work. They were a prolific team, designing hundreds of buildings in their 30 years of partnership. They introduced reinforced concrete to Edmonton in their design of the Tegler building, where they established their office. Their designs include impressive structures like some of the first buildings of Concordia College and Alberta College; the Alberta Normal School (Corbett Hall) on the grounds of the University of Alberta; the Edmonton Public Library on MacDonald Drive; the Gem, Rialto, and Roxy Theatres; and the Edmonton General Hospital. Together they received first prize in an American and Canadian competition for the 9-storey Masonic Temple and Office Building; and MacDonald was awarded a prize for the YWCA building after Magoon’s death. Notably, MacDonald also designed the Federal Building and the Education Building at the University of Alberta.

MacDonald married Dorothea Enid Huestis in 1913 and built a home for her on Connaught Drive as a wedding present; together they had six children. An original member of the Edmonton Art Club and the Glenora Figure Skating Club, MacDonald received honorary life membership to the McGill University Graduate Society in 1959, life membership to the Alberta Association of Architects of which he was president in 1930-1931, and was a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. He was also commissioned by the federal Government to research and write two texts on early Edmonton history, and was among the first to show interest in reconstructing Fort Edmonton.


Full Name

George Heath MacDonald

Character Defining Elements

Arched Windows, Balcony, Balustrade, Brick cladding, Brick structure, Cantilever projections, Carving, Columns, Coping, Cornice, Entablature, False Front, Flat roof, Frontispiece, Glass block, Hipped roof, Irregular footprint, Keystone, Marquee sign, Metal structure, Nailed frame structure, Parapet, Pilaster, Porch, Poured concrete structure, Proscenium, Quoins, Rectangular footprint, Reinforced concrete structure, Skylight, Smooth stone, Stone cladding, Stone structure, String course, Stucco cladding, Three storeys or more, Two storeys


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