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Tuesday, 24 June 2014
About the Groat Estate, Groat Ravine, and Groat Road, Edmonton Albearta.
Malcolm Alexander Groat was born April 1, 1836 in Halkirk, Caithness, Scotland. He was educated at the common school in Halkirk, and between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, helped on his father’s farm. He served with the militia during the Crimean War. Following the war, he served as an apprentice carriage builder until 1861, when he signed on with the Hudson’s Bay Company, travelling to Fort Edmonton. At Fort Edmonton, he served as the steward to the chief factor, William Joseph Christie, and supervised the Fort’s farm. On June 26, 1870, he married Margaret Christie, daughter of William Christie; they had two daughters and eight sons. In 1875 he left the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company and farmed land he had obtained in 1870 after the Hudson's Bay surrendered MOST of its lands to the Dominion of Canada in 1869 (retaining lands around their forts); Malcolm’s land was just west of the Hudson's Bay Reserve lands and became known as the Groat Estate.His lands WERE NOT and had NEVER BEEN owned by the City of Edmonton, The Province of Alberta, or The Dominion of Canada. In 1903, he sold SOME of his land to William Tretheway, who in turn sold it to James Carruthers in 1905. Malcolm died May 17, 1912. Margaret died December 22, 1915.
Groat Estate, Groat Ravine, and Groat Road are all named after Malcolm Alexander Groat; employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, businessman, community organiser, merchandiser, farmer, fur trader, horse breeder, master builder of coaches, rancher, real estate promoter, land speculator, member of Edmonton’s first school board, and charter member of the Pioneer’s and Old timer’s Association; who came to Canada at the age of 25 from Halkirk Scotland.
Malcolm Groat settled in Edmonton in 1878 and bought, and/or claimed, a large tract of homestead and other land that became the original “WEST END”. It stretched from 121st Street to 149th Street and from Jasper Avenue as far north as 111 Avenue. While much of the land remained speculative in nature, Groat did raise cattle and horses, on some of it, while operating a cartage business elsewhere.
Groat’s home on 125th Street was said to have one of the most beautiful views of the river in its time. As he grew older, he subdivided and sold parcels of his land all of which were named after him, including Groat Estates, and Groat Ravine. Groat Road is also named after Malcolm Groat, who donated MOST, but as the city was to rediscover; only after THE ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION OF GROAT ROAD was well under way, NOT ALL, of the ravine to the city in the early 1900s.
After signing up with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1861, Groat then came to Fort Edmonton to run the company’s farming operations and to organize the pack trains that carried trade goods. In that same year (1870), he married Marguerite Christie, daughter of the chief factor of the fort. They eventually had 10 children. Malcolm Groat remained as an employee with Hudson’s Bay until 1878, when he moved from the fort to his land to begin farming. His farming operation included crops and livestock, but his biggest joy was horse breeding.
By the 1880s, more people were settling around the walls of Fort Edmonton; and Malcolm Groat was involved in uniting the settlers into a community. He sat on the first school board and was a charter member of the Pioneers and Old Timers’ Association. During a real estate boom in 1903, Malcolm sold ALL but 20 acres, OR SO, ((city records, at least, were far from accurate), of his land to eastern real estate promoters. He kept the remaining land to continue his award-winning horse breeding operation.
Malcolm Groat built his third and final house in 1904. It still stands today (10131 Clifton Place, a goodly distance from, and access too, his horse breeding operation). Unfortunately, but not unusual, considering the way in which Edmonton Archives were, and are, traditionally, handled, there is not much of a recorded/written history of this house;other than this quote from the Edmonton Bulletin on Sept. 28, 1904. “Malcolm A. Groat is erecting a splendid residence near the site of his old house on the Groat estate. It overlooks one of the most beautiful portions of the Saskatchewan valley at Edmonton. The house will be fifty-one feet by thirty-nine, and consists of two storeys and a full-sized basement with a concrete floor. It will be built of rubbed brick with buttresses, corners and turret pillars of cement blocks. A splendid veranda extends around two sides of the building. The veranda will be supported on hollow pillars. The house will be fitted in an up-to-date style with the most modern conveniences. The plasterers are now at work on the house.”
Malcolm A Groat remained active in the Edmonton business community until he died on May 17, 1912. His funeral was the largest in Edmonton to that date-45 carriages, or so it is claimed, formed a procession to the cemetery.
William G. Trethewey
William G. Trethewey purchased the BULK (but not all) of Malcolm Groat’s 900 acres in 1903, at a cost of $100 an acre (very expensive, considering that in the 50s and 60s, you could buy rural land, west of Edmonton, for the same price. Tretheway then set about subdividing the land in a grid pattern, with each lot 50 feet by 120 feet. The streets were numbered and the avenues were named. This was two years before Edmonton experienced its first major land boom (1906)when houses couldn't be built fast enough to meet demand. As was true anywhere, in, or near, Edmonton, people often had to live in tents until their houses were complete. But, Trethewey was disappointed at the rate at which his lots were selling. To his way of thinking, part of the problem seemed to be the lack of public transportation to the west end; which meant it, like Jasper Place, was so considered rural, rather than a part of the city. Trethewey and his partner made several attempts to have city council extend the street car to the west end, but nothing came of it.
When he had an opportunity to sell the land to another eastern speculator (James Carruthers); Trethewey did so and then left Edmonton; going back to Ontario; where he made his millions in mining.
The Buena Vista was built by investors who purchased property from Malcolm Groat’s estate shortly after his death in 1912. Construction was barely complete when the real estate market crashed in early 1914. The investors never enjoyed the profit they had expected from the commercial block that was ideally situated along the streetcar line on 124 Street and lost it to foreclosure in 1930.
The building was for a time, home to renowned flyer “Wop” May. It has been a gathering place for generations.
James Carruthers, a Montreal grain merchant and prolific entrepreneur purchased much of the Groat homestead property from less successful real estate promoters in 1905. In 1909, he agreed to build a bridge 20 feet wide in exchange for the guarantee of a municipal street car route on 102 Avenue in to his Glenora subdivision.
City planners tried to convince Carruthers to build a 40 foot wide bridge. Not willing to invest any more money, Carruthers donated two parcels of parkland in the Westmount area to the city in exchange for municipal funds to cover the additional costs for a wider bridge. Four years later, the real estate market crashed, leaving the parkland absolutely valueless, but Carruthers’ steel bridge remains wide enough to handle 102 Avenue traffic more than eighty eight years later.
James Carruthers’ marketing schemes to attract the wealthiest of Edmonton’s families to Groat Estates were successful. He created a neighbourhood of country estates on the very large irregularly shaped lots on Villa Avenue. He ensured that the area would remain intact by registering a caveat stipulating that all homes built here would be at least 25’ back from the street front and that they would all have minimum monetary value of $5,000 (a princely sum in 1911). The caveat disallowed any kind of trade, advertising or multiple dwelling buildings, and is still in place to this day.
Edmontonians took notice of the “ELITE “neighbourhood that was developing and because of the high proportion of lawyers and businessmen who were establishing themselves on these estates; the area was nicknamed “Robbers’ Roost”.Up until the day he died, John Groat,(I believe a grandson to Malcon); who my children called “Grandpa”-originally an Edmontonian, in later years he lived in Mulhurst Alberta- received a monthly payment from the City of Edmonton, in payment for illegal trespass on and usage of Groat family owned land-land that had never been city, provincially, or federally owned; upon which the city had absolutely NO claim so could not expropriate. There was at the time another small lot just north of the Delton school that very much to the chagrin of the city planners; they found out that the same conditions applied. For a few years before his death, I was John’s constant (24 hour a day) nurse. ©Al (Alex, Alexander) D. Girvan. All rights reserved.