Yorath House – a hidden gem restored in Edmonton’s river valley
A West Coast Modern hidden gem in Edmonton’s river valley has been restored and repurposed by DIALOG, and for the first time in its history, the house is now open to the public! A grand opening was hosted at Yorath House today, giving Edmontonians a chance to explore the historic property and learn about the variety of events the property can now be rented for.
“Honouring its significant history, which dates back to the 1940s, Edmonton’s Yorath House has been beautifully restored and is now officially open for people to enjoy. It has become a great option for corporate retreats, weddings, community programs and family-friendly events in the River Valley.” -Rhonda Norman, Director of River Valley and Horticultural Facilities
History of the House
The history of Yorath House is fascinating. The property is in an area originally known as Miners’ Flats, where a gold prospector named Charles Stevenson, better known as “English Charlie,” settled in the 1870s. By the late 1940s, the majority of his parcel had been sold, including a 12-acre plot purchased by realtor William Wilkin. Mr. Wilkin gave the property to his son-in-law, Dennis Yorath, to build a family home. The 4380 sq. ft. house was built in 1949 and was one of the earliest West Coast Modern-style homes in the Edmonton area. The Yoraths were gracious hosts to many, including Queen Elizabeth II and her family, as part of a 1978 Commonwealth Games visit. The Yorath family held the home until the 1990s when it was sold to the City of Edmonton. Now registered as a Municipal Historic Resource, the City of Edmonton wanted to preserve the history of the house, while making it an amenity for the public. Its location is ideal—the house sits alone amongst the expansive Buena Vista/Laurier Park, adjacent to the North Saskatchewan River.
From Residential to Assembly
Converting a registered Municipal Historic Resource from a residential home into a public event space was no easy task. Details of the home’s heritage were preserved, while changes to the spaces allow it to be more functional for a wide range of events. The main floor became more open as a large space to host cocktail-style events, small performances, yoga classes, or other standing room soirees. The upper level’s bedrooms and sitting room now offer more intimate settings for corporate retreats, bridal ready rooms, wellness seminars, and more. An artist studio, public washroom, and private office complete the upper floor. The garage retains the same appearance from the outside, but inside is a new suite of accessible washrooms for event goers.
Reminders of its Storied Past
The majority of the features that make this property so spectacular remain preserved or restored.
The one-of-a-kind wooden interior staircase was resurfaced.
The remarkable field stone and brick fireplace in the main living room extends to the second floor and to outdoors.
One of the most interesting details is a series of cold storage boxes in a hallway that were used before refrigerators. Their chrome handles remain, and now open to reveal stories of the property’s history.
Upper and Lower Gardens
Terraces were raised for barrier free access to the house, and gentle slopes allow for accessible connections around the gardens. The landscape design for the upper garden creates a series of outdoor rooms that connect with the interior. The gardens are ideal for community barbecues, company picnics, throwing a frisbee, or hosting a garden wedding. Concrete stepping stones expand the programmable space, while minimizing the overall impact of an expansive hardscape. In the southeastern corner of the garden, a reinforced paving stone is home to Man with Pipe, Peter Hide’s impressive modernist sculpture. A small pergola on the east terrace creates a focal point and frames the view of the river below.
In the lower garden, the existing meadow was regraded to provide a smooth, functional space that does not impede natural storm-water management. The primary pedestrian connection ties into the restored historic stone stairs, a new barrier-free asphalt shared use pathway also allows service access to the lower garden. The pathway is framed by border plantings of apple trees, recreating the orchard that once defined the meadow. The existing stone retaining wall remains intact and is a strong connection to the heritage of the site.
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