Edmonton's First Real Estate Agents
Despite the flurry of activity in 1881 and 1891, the comparatively small number of land transactions in the Edmonton market before 1900 was not enough work in itself for a group of real estate agents. They worked at other jobs, including the fur trade and general merchandise. This group included Walter Scott Robertson, Alexander MacDonald, and John Cameron, who were partners in the general merchandise and trading company called A. MacDonald and Company. When Robertson, MacDonald, and Cameron arrived in Edmonton in June 1882 they invested about $30,000 in an interest in river lots twelve and fourteen in the Edmonton Settlement and other property at Fort Saskatchewan. The property acquired in Edmonton was subdivided in November 1882. The subdivision created 1,594 lots, generally 33 by 100 in size.
Other pioneer merchants who also sold real estate as part of the company operations were McDougall and Secord, and William Wilke, whose general store was located in South Edmonton.
The first real estate agency to advertise its presence in the community was operated by Messrs. McKay and Blake, who in the January 7, 1882, Edmonton Bulletin invited "parties in the East wishing to invest in real estate in Edmonton or vicinity. . . to correspond with . . . them. " They remained in business only a short time. That same year Blake became auctioneer and farm equipment salesman while McKay left the area.
In August 1882 William Stiff advertised that he bought and sold property on commission, collected accounts, managed estates for nonresidents, and furnished information to intending settlers. He continued in this line of business until 1884.
The real estate agent active for the longest time in the 1880s was Stuart Mulkins, who arrived in the Edmonton district in the fall of 1881 as the census commissioner for the Edmonton and Bow River districts. By July 1882 he had established himself as a notary public and conveyancer. Initially he concerned himself with the location of coal claims and timber limits but by December 1882 he had become the sole agent for the subdivisions in river lots ten, twelve, and fourteen. He moved to Red Deer in 1887.
By 1899, only three individuals were identified in the directories as real estate agents. They were P. Heiminck and Co., Isaac Cowie, and T. A. Stephen. Philip Heiminck was the Edmonton agent for the Hudson's Bay Co. and Cowie was the agent for the Scottish, Ontario, and Manitoba Land Co. Stephen is listed in the directory without any company affiliation.
By 1900 private land ownership had become an established institution in Edmonton with the creation of a Land Titles office. There was an oversupply of subdivided land on both sides of the river because the expected growth in population did not materialise. Selling real estate, therefore, employed just a few people. Events after 1900 would, however, dramatically improve Edmonton's prospects, as the second wave of transcontinental railway construction and the increased pace of land settlement would bring a decade of spectacular growth - when Edmonton would become one of western Canada's larger metropolitan areas.
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.