Highlands is situated on land originally identified as River Lots 30, 32, and 34, and was owned by three Hudson Bay Company employees. Until the area came into the hands of real estate developers McGrath, Holgate, and Company, it seemed an unlikely candidate for early development, as it was situated three miles from the centre of Edmonton. McGrath-Holgate negotiated with the City to provide services and extend the electric streetcar line with subsidies provided by the developers.

Highlands was annexed to the city in 1912, and a streetcar line, which operated from 1912 to 1945, ran along 112th Avenue. In 1911, McGrath and Holgate built their mansions on Ada Boulevard, a roadway named after McGrath’s wife. Other large, well-appointed houses were built along or near Ada Boulevard, where residents now enjoy a spectacular view of the North Saskatchewan River Valley. More modest housing was located further from the valley.

While development in Highlands began during the 1911 land boom, it did proceed—albeit at a slower pace—through the subsequent decades of slower growth, until a final development surge during the late 1940s and 1950s used up most of the remaining residential lots.

With the exception of commercial and apartment developments along 118th Avenue and in a few scattered locations, Highlands has remained an area of low-density residential development. It also contains many significant heritage resources. The locally initiated Highlands Historical Foundation was established in 1988 to increase awareness about and initiate the preservation of heritage resources within the neighbourhood.

The name “Highlands” was chosen in a contest that offered a 50-dollar prize to the person who provided the best name for the new subdivision.

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