The Westmount area became part of the City of Edmonton in 1904. During the economic boom prior to the First World War, Westmount developed rapidly, particularly after the streetcar from central Edmonton was extended to serve the area in 1911. The area is significant for its residential architecture, which includes a high concentration of well-preserved Foursquare and Craftsman style homes constructed in the early 1900s. In the decades following the First World War, the area experienced little redevelopment and as a result retains a distinct, era-specific historic character.
Westmount Community League is one of the oldest in Edmonton. We were one of the first in the City to actively pursue a recreation policy, sponsoring the construction of an outdoor rink in 1921. In 1929, our beloved Community Hall was moved by horses from 67 Street and 129 Avenue to its current spot.
A little more on our cherished neighbourhood...
Thought to be named after the suburb of Montréal, the community of Westmount is bounded by Groat Road, 111 Avenue, 121 Street, and Stony Plain Road. It also includes the Groat Estate area south of Stony Plain Road between Groat Road and 124 Street. A large portion of homes in this neighbourhood were built in the land boom of 1912. Apartments make up about half the living space, but only appeared relatively recently in the 1960s and 1970s along major traffic routes.
Malcolm Groat signed on with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) from his native Scotland in 1861 at age twenty-five. He was posted to Fort Edmonton as a steward in charge of the farming operations and packhorses. In 1870, in a deal with the new Dominion of Canada, the HBC was granted a land reserve of 3,000 acres around Fort Edmonton and the outlying lands were divided into river lots according to the French-Métis system of long, narrow properties perpendicular to the river bank. Groat selected the 900 acres of River Lot 2 on the western edge of the HBC reserve as his homestead and he moved there with his wife, Chief Factor William Christie’s daughter Marguerite, and their 9 children when he retired from the HBC in 1878. Although remodelled, the four-square brick home he built in 1907 still stands at 31 Clifton Place.
The majority of Groat’s property was purchased by James Carruthers at the beginning of Edmonton’s first land boom in 1906. Two years before the City of Edmonton had annexed lands to the west of downtown as far as 127 Street. In 1910, Edmonton annexed the rest of Malcolm Groat’s homestead. Separated from downtown and the rest of the development in Edmonton by the broad HBC reserve, Carruthers established Glenora and Groat Estates with a caveat that remains in effect to this day. He determined that “the houses to be erected on the said land shall be either detached or semi-detached and the sum to be expended on the erection of such house shall not be less than $3,500… $4,000… or $5,000” depending on their location. To encourage the development of the relatively distanced subdivisions, Carruthers convinced the city to bring the streetcar lines to 142 Street - the western edge of the city - by financing the replacement of the wooden bridge over Groat Ravine with a new steel structure and building a bridge over the ravine at 139 Street. A streetcar line was completed by the City in 1910.
Many homes in Westmount were constructed without a buyer in mind. It was a new concept at the time that especially appealed to speculators who purchased property from the HBC when they finally opened their reserve for sale in 1912. With Carruther’s caveat, the Groat Estate property interested wealthy and well-established citizens who subsequently erected grand brick country houses or arts and crafts styled manors generally overlooking Groat Ravine. For instance, five prominent Edmontonians - Colonel James Kennedy Cornwal, Oliver Mowat Bigger, Mayor Henry Marshall, Erskine Evans, and the Honorable Charles W. Cross - purchased large parcels of land from Carruthers and drew lots to see which property they would acquire along Villa Avenue. Th lots across Stony Plain Road and outside the bounds of the caveat, however, largely appealed to young professionals - doctors, lawyers, and educators at the beginning of their careers. Not as impressive as those in Groat Estate, these Westmount dwellings were still large clapboard homes, with dining rooms, fireplaces, large kitchens and wrap-around verandahs. Dr. Norman Terwilligar and Charles Baker both lived in craftsman styled homes in Westmount in 1912; whereas William O’Leary’s home and the Chandler residence are an eclectic blend of the Arts and Crafts, Craftsman, Queen Anne, and Four-Square designs that were popular at the time. A horse and carriage house, an integral part of the historical nature of Chandler’s property, harkens back to the early development of the first city garages which appeared in Westmount and Glenora replacing once-needed stables.
A global depression devastated the real estate market in 1913 and much of Westmount developed quite slowly until after the Second World War. The construction of Westmount School was started in 1913 but only finished in 1927, and the Westmount Community League - established in 1919 - had to lobby hard for a new high school to be built in the midst of the depression. This became Westglen which began as a high school in 1940 until enrolment peaked and Ross Sheppard High School was built in 1957. The Westmount Shopper’s Park was built kitty-corner to the community in 1955 as a new concept in retail. Later named Westmount Mall, it’s success spurred the development of six major Edmonton malls culminating in West Edmonton Mall in the 1980s.
As Groat’s property was being developed, the Edmonton, Yukon, and Pacific (E,Y, & P) railway line gradually made its way from the Low Level Bridge, up the river valley above the Municipal Golf Course. It emerged onto Wadhurst Road and circled into Edmonton to join the Canadian Northern Railway lines on 106 Avenue. Between 1908 and 1928 passengers could pay twenty-five cents and select one of four times a day to leave Strathcona, steam past Malcolm Groat’s backyard, and disembark downtown. These rails were dismantled in 1952 and the city opened 700 residential lots for sale between 127 Street and 142 Street from 107 Avenue to 111 Avenue. Edmonton’s first full-time city planner Noel Dant planned this western portion of Westmount in the same manner as several other communities outlying the downtown core. These featured limited vehicle access to the residential community, crescents and cul-de-sacs, and schools and recreational space at its core.
Westmount Heritage Committee
The Westmount Heritage Committee is involved in several initiatives to enhance and promote Westmount’s history (see below). If you want to be involved in these initiatives, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Changes were made to the WAHA DC1 zone to ensure that the historic character of the area is maintained and enhanced, and to provide direction for future development. More details can be found here.
Owners of homes built prior to 1970 can obtain a plaque that contains information on the house’s history, including year built, first occupant(s) and their occupation. More details can be found here.
A Community Walking map of Westmount has been created to highlight points of interest in the neighbourhood through recommended walking routes. The City and volunteers from the Heritage Committee led the development with input from other Westmount residents and students from Westglen School. You can pick up a copy of the map at the Hall, the Westmount Fitness Centre, Woodcroft Library as well as City facilities, or look at it online at www.edmonton.ca/walkmap
A random look at some special moments of the past...
Looking north down 124th Street from the top of the Buena Vista block building on the corner of 102 Avenue, 1912
124th Street looking north towards 102 Avenue, 1939
Former Firehall #8, 10986 126 Street, 1920
West Edmonton YMCA (previously known as Mountglen YMCA) in Westmount, 10984 127 Street, 1957. This was an old army hut located to the north of the Community Hall.
The Sahara Theatre 1956, Westmount Shopper's Park with an Egyptian motif and "dinner and a movie" experience.
Westmount Mall food court, 1985. The mall had two movies theaters-Cineplex and Famous Players, an arcade and ice skating rink.
Westmount Shopper's Park, 1962
Malcolm Groat, 1903
Westmount Shopper's Park, trampoline park, 1962
Kresge's lunch counter, Westmount Shopper's Park
Looking west along 102 Avenue (Athabasca Avenue) from 125t Street: Road being prepared for surfacing.
Certificate of title granted to Malcolm Groat for River Lot 2, 1887.
1882 Settlement around Fort Edmonton, showing Malcolm Groat's land.
Ladies walking in Groat Ravine Park, 1913
Harold Ross on Groat Ravine Bridge, 1911
Westmount Park, shelter & playground, 1968
Streetcar #26 on 124 Street, 1911
Driving on the Groat Estate, ca. 1910
Opening of Grads Park, L to R: Winnie Gallen, Babe Daniel, Mae Brown, Edith Stone, Helen Northup, Betty Bawden, Betty Ross, Evelyn Coulson, 1989
Edmonton School Boys Band, Taken in Westmount School Auditorium, 1952
Lynne Houston crowned Queen by King Ron Sheppard at Westmount Community League "Frosty Frolic", 1950.
Westmount Community Playschool, October 1949
Westmount Community Playschool, October 1949
Westmount Community Playschool, children in Halloween costumes, 1947
Crowning of Westmount Winter Carnival Queen, 1935.
Westmount Public School, opened 1915. Now Westmount Jr. High
127 Street & 110 Avenue, Big snow of November 1942.
Westmount Shoppers Park jammed with traffic and shoppers. It officially opened on Aug. 18, 1955 - a year before America's first shopping mall.
Westmount Shoppers Park (1950s) - The Totem Pole (right) was carved by Artist Ellen Neel (1916-1966). It was returned to the coast and now resides in Stanley Park.
Celebrating Westmount Shoppers Park's 2nd Anniversary with CHED (1957).
Westmount School (now Westmount Jr. High), End of School, Summer 1954
West side of 132 Street at 110 Avenue, 1960
Westmount Cinema, opening day of Return of the Jedi, 1983
Roxy Theatre, 1938