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Historical Edmonton: Exploring the Architecture of The Highlands

There are but a few days left this season to spend time outdoors soaking up the sun under blue skies in the crisp Fall air.  So why not get one more historical walking tour under your belt?  

Located a bit northeast of downtown, Highlands has an interesting story.  Named as part of a contest held by the owners of the land, Magrath-Holgate & Co., in or around 1910, The Highlands was planned as a high-end community for wealthy Edmontonians.  Bidwell Holgate and William Magrath were real estate investors responsible for the development of the Highlands and built their own grand homes in the neighbourhood.

While many impressive homes were built, development slowed during a recession in 1913.  Over the years, building of the neighbourhood continued with a mix of different types of houses, and architecture. We’ve taken the liberty of picking some fantastic options for you to explore in Edmonton’s Highlands neighbourhood.  

Let’s get going!

historical edmonton architecture gibbard block highlands

Gibbard Block

Begin your tour at the Gibbard Block with burgers at Fox Burger.  Whether you choose to dine-in at the main floor restaurant or on the rooftop patio, you’ll love the burgers with a side of garlic fries or spicy mozza sticks.  

The Gibbard Block is actually the START of your tour, as the building is one of the first in The Highlands neighbourhood.  Built in 1912, Edmonton’s Urban Growth Period, it was originally luxury apartments with retail on the main level.  The architectural style is Classical Revival, with its brick structure, lintels, flat roof and rectangular shape.

Walk south into Highlands to reach the mighty mix of beautiful homes, many originally built as part of the vision of Magrath – Holgate & Co.. 

historical edmonton architecture william brown residence highlands

William Brown Residence

Built in 1927 during Edmonton’s War Years period, the William Brown residence is a blend of Clinker and Craftsman architecture.  The house features clinker brick exterior and Craftsman-style hipped gabled roof, a large veranda and front dormer.

Named for the architect who designed it, William Brown designed and built ten houses in the neighbourhood, 6 of which were on the same street as his own home.

historical edmonton architecture ash residence highlands

Ash Residence

The Ash Residence was one of the original spec houses built by Magrath-Holgate & Co. as a way of drawing in well-to-do Edmontonians to buy in the Highlands.  It was the home of William Thomas Ash and his family.  Ash together with his brother, was the owner of Ash Brothers Diamond Hall, a well-known local jeweller and watchmaker.

The house was built in 1912, during the city’s Urban Growth period, and is an example of the Foursquare architectural style with its clapboard siding, bay window, pillars and veranda.

historical edmonton architecture magrath mansion highlands

Magrath Mansion

Everyone in Edmonton knows the Magrath Mansion.  It is so revered, when it was listed in 2020 and subsequently sold in August 2021, it made the news multiple times.  As one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, it’s no surprise.  

Built in 1912 during the Urban Growth period for William Magrath, the house is an example of Classical Revival architecture.  It is ornate and imposing… 3 stories, fourteen rooms, two-storey veranda, dormers and columns.  Inside, it is finished with oak panelling, linen wall coverings and a large winding staircase.

historical edmonton architecture holgate residence highlands

Holgate Residence

Bidwell Holgate, in addition to his business partner William Magrath, needed a grand home as well.  Just a few houses down on Ada Boulevard, the Holgate Residence is not quite the spectacle that the Magrath Mansion is, but it is still impressive.

Also built during the Urban Growth period, the home is a blend of two architectural styles – Arts & Crafts and Tudor Revival.  With 5500 square feet of living space, the home includes various luxurious elements such as a mahogany lady’s parlour, hammered brass fireplace and hand-painted frescos throughout.

For full mapped walking instructions of this tour of the Highlands architecture, click here.

We sourced our historical and architectural information from the Edmonton Historical Board and the Edmonton Maps Heritage.  To add more stops to your walking tour or read more about those profiled here, check out their websites.

Oh, and if you love the idea of historical walking tours, check out our piece on the Strathcona neighbourhood, too.

Do you love free stuff and great hotels?  Before you go, we want to make sure you know about our amazing 1, 2, 3 Pick Your Rewards Deal.  Get prepaid Mastercards, gas cards, and dining cards valued at up to $225.  This isn’t just something that seems to good to be true, it’s just TOO GOOD!

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Terms and Conditions

The “1,2, 3 Pick Your Rewards”, Terms and Conditions and Blackout Dates 

Rewards Program campaign dates

Reward package available to book from January 5, 2022 for stays to December 31, 2024 for rewards except for possible blackout dates. At present there are no blackout dates scheduled.

Rewards are subject to while supplies last.  Substitutions of equivalent kind, value may be made as necessary.  Rewards are non-transferable, no cash value, no cash back.

  • Rewards are non-transferable, non-exchangeable, have no cash value, no cash back.
  • Rewards cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion.
  • Reward deal is net non-commissionable.

Blackout dates

At present there are no blackout dates scheduled. 

In the event blackout dates are scheduled, any guest who makes a booking for a hotel stay during the blackout period prior to the blackout period being named will receive the rewards they are booked for. 

Rewards Program offerings

Book one night’s stay with Edmonton’s Best Hotels and receive your choice of one of three $50 rewards excluding blackout dates:

  • $50 Gas Card or
  • $50 Prepaid Mastercard, or
  • $50 Ultimate Dining Card

Book two night’s stay with Edmonton’s Best Hotels and receive your choice of one of five reward packages excluding blackout dates:

  • $150 prepaid MasterCard, or
  • $75 Gas card and $75 MasterCard, or
  • $75 Gas card and $75 Ultimate Dining Card, or

Book three night’s stay with Edmonton’s Best Hotels and receive your choice of one of four reward packages excluding blackout dates:

  • Three Night Reward 1: $225 Prepaid Mastercard
  • Three Night Reward 3: $75 Ultimate Dining Card + $75 Prepaid Mastercard + $75 Gas Card

One choice of reward per stay. 

Guest must be 18 years of age or older at time of redemption. 

Prepaid Mastercard’s can be used for online purchases only. In Canada, prepaid Mastercard’s cannot be used at any retail outlet (including your hotel) with point-of-sale systems.

Rewards distribution

Rewards will be emailed directly to guests within 48 hours of Edmonton’s Best Hotels confirming their check-in.  Rewards are not provided by the hotel’s front desk.   All rewards are sent electronically. 


Guest must reserve a minimum of 24 hours prior to arrival.

Rewards are NOT available for reservations made less than 24 hours in advance of arrival.

Reservations made directly with hotels and not through Edmonton’s Best Hotels are not eligible for rewards. No exceptions. Rewards are only provided to guests who book through Edmonton’s Best Hotels online booking platform.  Booking reservation confirmations will have Edmonton’s Best Hotels branding on them. Rewards not provided for hotel reservations during specified blackout dates.

Reservations cannot be extended by hotels for additional rewards.

Guests may add a night to an existing one-night deal reservation and receive additional rewards if the request is made a minimum of 24 hours in advance of arrival.

Booking terms and conditions

Rewards provided for more than one night, must be for consecutive nights under one registration under one name at one property. In addition, no more than up to three consecutive nights will be honoured. If a guest checks in for three days and then checks out and re-checks in for the next day, this is considered a consecutive night booking even if the second booking is made at different hotel.  

There must be a minimum of three days between bookings.

Multiple reservations for the same person for the same night(s) is considered a double booking and only one of those bookings will be eligible for rewards. For example, if a guest books two nights on x and y date and then makes another two-night booking for the same dates at the same hotel or another hotel, EBH considers this a double booking and will honour rewards for only one of those bookings. 

Is there a limit on the number of bookings I make on different dates?  Edmonton Best Hotels welcomes repeat business.  Some of our guests visit Edmonton every month.  Please note as stated earlier there must be a minimum of three days between bookings. Please also note stated blackout dates.

Cancelling and date changes to reservations

If a guest wants to cancel or change the dates of their booking.

What if I want to cancel my booking?  Edmonton Best Hotels must cancel your booking (not the hotel).  If you want to cancel, contact info@edmh.ca and let us know.  We will cancel your booking and send you a cancellation number for your records.  Please do not cancel directly with the hotel.

What if I want to change the dates of my booking?  You must contact Edmonton Best Hotels at info@edmh.ca and let us know you want to make a date change.  Your original booking must be cancelled first.  You will receive a cancellation number for your records.  Then, you must rebook for your new dates.  The hotel nor Edmonton’s Best Hotels cannot make date changes to the original booking.  Please note this does not guarantee you will receive the same hotel rate when you rebook for different dates.

Any questions, please contact Edmonton Best Hotels at info@edmh.ca 

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