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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Real Estate and the Birth of Edmonton 1870-1899

Property rights and real estate preoccupied Edmontonians during the period from 1870 to 1899 when Edmonton made its transition from a fur trade outpost to a modern urban community. Everyone seemed involved in the process of making and protecting land claims and agitating for the necessary policies to speed up land transfers. Surveys of the Hudson's Bay Co. Reserve and individual land claims had to be made and deeds issued. When the Dominion Government delayed in dealing with land claims, a settlers' rights movement began where citizens of Edmonton protected their perceived property rights with vigilante action.

The Dominion Government eventually responded by creating the North Alberta Land Registration District, and appointed Thomas Anderson to be the first Dominion land agent in Edmonton. He regulated land transfers, issued titles, and registered subdivision plans so that an orderly transfer of property could take place. The North Alberta Land Registration District continues to operate on the basis of the Torrens system of land registration.

Almost as important to the citizen's actual land claim was the land's potential for increasing in value. Up to 1900, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Calgary and Edmonton Railway were the most potent influences on property values in the Edmonton real estate market. Railway companies could cause a boom simply by indicating their intention to build through to a particular location. The first Edmonton real estate boom of 1882 is evidence of this influence.

This interest in real estate did not, however, produce a sufficient number of land transactions up to 1900 to create the need for a separate industry. Real estate was handled by insurance agents or by general merchants who also purchased grain and sold merchandise to settlers.

This article is extracted from John Gilpin, Responsible Enterprise: A History of Edmonton Real Estate & the Edmonton Real Estate Board. (Edmonton: Edmonton Real Estate Board, 1997). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation would like to thank John Gilpin and the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton for permission to reproduce this material.

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