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Like many people at the time, William Magrath came west to make his fortune. He arrived in Edmonton in 1904 on the first train west out of Battleford. And he soon found his calling in real estate. As historian Dorothy Field explains, by 1912 he was wealthy enough to build his mansion.
It was supposed to be a means of promoting his new development of the Highlands, just east of Edmonton. It was an area that was supposed to have larger, more expansive homes. It had a nice view of the river valley, and it was a bit farther away from the hustle and bustle, so it was intended to attract people who wanted a bit of land around their house and wanted to be surrounded by other people with the same sort of ambitions.
The Magrath mansion was built in a classical revival style, with tall, white columns and a brick façade.
And, along the side, there is a porte-cochere on the east side of the house where you could drive your car up and get out without getting damp if it was raining or snowing, and also a gazebo.
There is also a pavilion where you could sit in the shade. It had a balcony above with access from the second floor which had a curving balustrade all the way around. It was very fanciful but also quite grand at the same time.
The house was large and opulent. And the design incorporated many special features.
The house had all the modern conveniences, including central heating, electricity, a swimming pool in the basement, burglar alarms on all the doors, and telephones in every room. And in Mrs. Magrath's sitting room there were controls for all of the lights in the house. So I guess when it was time for bed, it was time for bed.
But the dream of a genteel life fizzled when the bottom fell out of the real estate market.
The Magrath's managed to hold on to it until 1931, in spite of the fact that the real estate market crashed in 1914. And they had quite a tough time of it.
William Magrath died in 1921, and the city bought the house from his widow for just over a thousand dollars in 1931. So it was pretty tough.
In 1953, the Magrath Mansion was purchased by the Ukrainian Catholic diocese as a residence for the archbishop.
On the Heritage Trail,
I'm Cheryl Croucher.