Duggan House

DUGGAN HOUSE (Alberta Association of Architects) Restoration, Edmonton, Alberta

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Duggan House is a Provincial Historic Resource and was recently designated as a Municipal Historic Resource by the City of Edmonton. It has been the home of the Alberta Association of Architects since the early 1980s. The building had been restored to its original configuration in the early 1980s after an earlier conversion to a rooming house. By 2013, it was time to address some important maintenance and building code issues. The structure of the veranda was repaired, the masonry repaired and repointed, the wood windows and doors were restored, the exterior wood work was repainted and code-compliant handrails were added to the steps and veranda platform.

The heritage value of the J. J. Duggan Residence lies in its association with prominent Strathcona businessman and politician John Joseph Duggan and in its fine representation of upper middle class period architecture.

Born in Ontario in 1868, J. J. Duggan immigrated to western Canada in his early 20s to seek his fortune. He worked initially in a British Columbia sawmill before travelling in 1891 to the fledgling settlement of South Edmonton. Family wealth helped the young man establish himself in his adopted home: Duggan’s wealthy and influential uncle, Cornelius J. Duggan, founded the first lumber yard in South Edmonton and hired his nephew as agent and manager of the operation. With the development of South Edmonton and the expansion of its hinterland, J. J. Duggan’s lumber operation flourished. With success came diversification: in succeeding years, he expanded into a number of business fields, including farming, ranching, agricultural equipment, and real estate. Duggan’s economic successes enhanced his social prestige and helped to pave the way to a fruitful local political career. When South Edmonton was incorporated as a town in 1899 and renamed Strathcona, Duggan served on the first Town Council. In 1902 and 1903, he was elected Mayor, a position he also ascended to by acclamation three times between 1908 and 1910. Integral to the economic and political development of early Strathcona, Duggan was also a key contributor to the social and spiritual life of the community. He and his wife, Margaret Belle MacDonald, were essential in forming St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Parish and provided the lay leadership for the congregation. Duggan’s impressive achievements as an Irish Catholic in a predominantly Protestant community testifies to the greater tolerance for religious diversity on the western Canadian frontier, where personal initiative and resolution was at least as significant a predictor of success as religious affiliation or familial ties.

In 1907, Duggan built a stately new residence in Strathcona. In its substantial scale and eclectic style, the J. J. Duggan Residence embodies the kind of architecture favoured by Strathcona’s upper middle class residents during the period. The building is a robust red-brick construction with an irregular roofline and a variety of decorative details, including an oculus window in the front gable extension and rusticated quoins. The covered ground floor veranda supported by round pillars and the second floor balcony are well integrated into the architectural scheme and offer expansive views of the river valley and Edmonton’s downtown core. The building’s excellent location, substantial scale, robust massing, and eclectic architectural detailing served the dual purpose of projecting J. J. Duggan’s social prominence and refined aesthetic sensibilities and providing a comfortable, well-appointed living space for his family.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1059)

Contractor: Delnor Construction
Window and door restoration: Eileen Fraser
Masonry restoration: Scorpio Masonry