Burns, A.P. Burnside Development Corporation

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Burns, A.P. Burnside Development Corporation

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A.P. Burns was a noted businessman, contractor, builder, and rancher in post-1900 Medicine Hat. He was born in Elinora, Ontario in 1877. He was president of the Gas City Planing Mill Ltd. And at one time was vice-president of the Medicine Hat News Ltd. when it was locally owned. He also served for two terms on City Council, was a past-president of the Chamber of Commerce, first president of the Western Reclamation Association, and chairman of the Chamber's irrigation committee. During the Second World War he was chairman of the Medicine Hat and District Committee for National War Finance. He had an interest in sports, serving as president of the old Monarch Hockey Club, and the Alberta Fish and Game Association. Arthur was married to Lila (nee?) and they couple had two children, Robert and Mrs. Bill Morrison. One of his business endeavors (which is the focus of this fonds) was as a principal in the Burnside Development Corporation (BDC) that was formed with several prominent early citizens including: H.L. Tweed, C.R. Mitchell (later provincial treasurer, and attorney general), Charles S. Pingle, and Dr. C.S. Smith. Each shareholder brought either capital or land from what is now the Burnside area into the corporation, for the purpose of developing the area into an urban subdivision. After the formation of BDC an agreement was struck with the firm of Perry Sewell and Perry in 1912 (PS&P) to market and sell the development. PS&P in turn became shareholders in a Calgary based joint stock company called Windsor Estates that was created for the purpose of selling the individual residential lots. Numerous lots were sold across the country, many apparently to real estate men and other speculators who were intending on profiting from the forecasted continued rapid economic expansion that was to occur in Medicine Hat and western Canada. Each of the deals between the parties were tied to the success of each other as unsecured loans and mortgages with small down payments were the principal method of payment employed by all. With the economic downturn in the fall of 1913 the plan started to unravel with lot sales decreasing and payments being defaulted upon. By 1915 PS&P were in default themselves and BDC was in turn forced to appeal to the City of Medicine Hat to reconsider the tax assessment for all of the lots. By 1918 with many lots being put up for judicial sale for failure to pay taxes the entire subdivision proposal was recognized as unsalvageable. Like many other failed land schemes in the province at that time, BDC applied to the Provincial Utility Commission to have the land de-accessioned from the city and turned back into rural lands. Throughout the 1920's and 1930's, BDC operated the area as a farm that was successful agriculturally but marginally viable financially as the debt load from the companies inception weighed heavily on its finances. However all debts were fully honoured by the time that A.P. Burns dissolved the company in 1941. The documents in this archive provide a first hand, in depth account of the intricacies of a land speculation scheme that were common prior to the period of the First World War. Acreage values went from the corporations original purchase price of $137/acre in 1911 to $1000/acre in 1912 when acquired by PS&P and doubling again (approximately) when individual 25 ft lots were selling for $220 in 1913. Arthur P. Burns passed away June 14, 1963 at the age of 86.


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