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Bidwell A. Holgate

Bidwell A. Holgate, a prominent lawyer and businessman, was a partner of Magrath & Holgate, a real estate development famous for developing the Highlands neighborhood during Edmonton's first real estate boom.

Born in Ontario, Holgate moved to Edmonton in 1908, and quickly became involved in real estate. In 1909, he purchased John H. Hart's interest in the Magrath-Hart Company, and in 1911, the company was renamed the Magrath & Holgate company. At the height of the real estate boom, Magrath & Holgate began buying land in the Highlands area, paying $35,000 for 23 lots. The Highlands neighborhood was in an undeveloped part of town, so Magrath & Holgate launched an advertising campaign to bring people to the district. They also paid to have a streetcar line, sidewalks, street lighting, water and sewage systems extended into the neighborhood. The Highlands was a luxury neighborhood with modern amenities; the minimum price of a house in the area was $2,500 and the average house was worth $4,000. Magrath and Holgate built many landmark houses in the area that still exist today, like the Davidson Residence, the Morehouse Resdience, the Chown Residence, and the Magrath and Holgate mansions. In addition to these residencies, Magrath & Holgate built a commercial building, the Magrath-Holgate Block at 6423-112th Avenue. Unfortunately, when the boom went bust in 1913, Holgate's fortunes suffered, and the glory days of the Magrath & Holgate empire ended.

Bidwell Holgate and his partner Magrath both built neighboring mansions for themselves on Ada Boulevard. Holgate contracted a 20-room mansion on 6210 Ada Boulevard, commissioning the architects Nesbitt & Morehouse to design the building. The house was completed in 1912, and ended up costing $49,000 to build, although Holgate had budgeted $19,000 for the project. The style of Holgate House can be best described as Tudor Revival, with half timbering, including elements of the English Arts and Crafts movement, evident in the interior design; hand-finished fresco-style plaster adorns the ceiling in the sitting room, and the main foyer features hand-carved oak. A historical motif of western Canada is hand-painted on the linen that wraps the walls of the den on the main flour. The Holgate residence was enormous in its day, with eight bedrooms, three fireplaces, formal living and dining rooms, and a mezzanine on the second floor with parquet floors and stained glass windows.

Holgate lived in his mansion for less than ten years. In January of 1920, an investment company bought the house, and the Holgate family moved into a more modest home, the Mackenzie Residence at 6010-111 Street, still in the Highlands area. In 1923, Holgate retired. He died suddenly in 1928, at the age of 50, while being treated for diabetes.

Holgate Mansion has changed hands many times. After it was sold to the city, it was rented to the Campbell family for two years. It remained a single family home, but by the sixties, the house had eroded. In 1977, Michael Liknaitzky and his wife June bought the house and began to restore it. The renovations ensured that the house kept its traditional character, except for the kitchen which was completely redone. The three-acre land on which the house was built has since been subdivided, and a swimming pool was built beside the house. In 1983, the mansion was sold for $265,000 to the architect Richard Vanderwell and his family. In 1987, Holgate House was designated a Provincial Historical Resource.

References

Alberta Community Development. Edmonton Historical Walking and Driving Tours: the Highlands.

Herzog, Lawrence. Discovering the Highlands. Real Estate Weekly, 24(13), March 30, 2006. Retrieved July 21, 2008

Herzog, Lawrence. The Houses of Ernest Morehouse. Real Estate Weekly, 22(3), January 22, 2004. Retrieved July 21, 2008

Macdonald, Jac. Older Communities Extend to River. Edmonton Journal, Real Estate Section, April 6, 1984.

Person, Dennis and Carin Routledge. Edmonton: Portrait of a City. Edmonton: Reidmore Books, 1981.

Reynolds, Marilynn. Edwardian Elegance. Alberta's Western Living, November 1978.

Rooke, Charlene. Edmonton: Secrets of the City. Edmonton: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2002.

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