Owner of $9.7M Magrath Mansion opens doors of Highlands home to the curious

From a sunny spot in his favourite chair on the veranda, Sid Braaksma watches car after car slow down to stare at his house.

'The public pretty much demands it. Everybody I talk to or meet ... says, 'When can I see this house?'

Sid Braaksma has owned the Magrath Mansion since 2000. (John Robertson/CBC)

From a sunny spot in his favourite chair on the veranda, Sid Braaksma watches car after car slow down to stare at his house.

"The public pretty much demands it. Everybody I talk to or meet, wherever I go, says, 'When can I see this house?' "
A large historic mansion.
Overlooking the North Saskatchewan River, the Magrath Mansion has been a fixture in the Highlands neighbourhood since 1912. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The city has assessed the home at $9.7 million according to Braaksma.

But the home has come a long way from when he and his wife of 52-years, Nellie Braaksma, bought the place back in 2000.

"The floor was creaking and peaking and all kinds of spots where it was totally worn. It took a year and a half to renovate," Braaksma recalls.

The 74-year-old is the founder and president of Northgate Industries, an Alberta-based manufacturing, transportation and modular-building company.

Inside Edmonton's Magrath Mansion

6 years ago
Duration 3:16
Meet Edmonton homeowner Sid Braaksma and learn more about what it's taken to restore and maintain the historic 1912 Magrath Mansion.

The entrepreneur, who immigrated to Canada from Holland in 1952, is no stranger to hard work or a challenge, not unlike the businessman and real-estate developer William Magrath, who built the three-storey, fourteen-room family home in 1912.
William Magrath built his namesake home in 1912. (City of Edmonton Archives (EA-267-556))

The mansion, at  6240 Ada Blvd., was sold to the City of Edmonton in the 1930s and, after sitting vacant for a time, was rented as suites before the Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop took up residence in the 1940s.

The property came up for sale again in 2000.

Gardeners are now planting flowers and the painters putting an extra coat of white paint on the railings in preparation for a public open house on July  2.

"I don't mind having the house shown to people at all and having the historical society do this as a fundraiser for them is a great way to do it," Braaksma said.

The Highlands Historical Society is planning buggy rides, a mini classic-car show with some of the vehicles in Braaksma's collection, and a chance for the public to explore the mansion for a donation of $10 per person.

"I'd like to think if Magrath was standing and looking at how beautifully his house has been preserved, I think he'd be really proud," said vice president Johanne Yakula.

Open House at the Magrath Mansion

6 years ago
Duration 0:48
Driven past and always wondered what it's like inside? The homeowners of Edmonton's Magrath Mansion are holding an open house as a fundraiser for the Highlands Historical Society.

The society is one of 54 community organizations, businesses, churches, and museums involved with this year's Edmonton Historic Festival and Doors Open event which runs July 1-9.

"People don't know a lot about what's going on around them," said festival producer Susan Lacombe. "They walk past buildings all the time and they don't know the rich stories that are around them.

"It can make people more proud of where they live and more knowledgeable about their surroundings."

You can see more from the Magrath Mansion on Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV.
Nellie Braaksma shows off the mansion's front parlour. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)


Adrienne Lamb


Adrienne Lamb is the host and producer of Our Edmonton featured weekly on CBC TV. She served for several years as CBC Radio's national arts reporter in Edmonton. Prior to moving to Alberta in 2001, Adrienne worked at CBC in Ontario and New Brunswick. Adrienne is a graduate of Western University with a degree in English and Anthropology and a Masters in Journalism.