Gastown in downtown Vancouver has always been one of my favourite neighbourhoods in this city. It’s one of the first places I take visitors to see. There is something uniquely different about this neighbourhood compared to the rest. And yet, walking the tree line streets filled with upscale boutiques, unique restaurants and plentiful bars, it is hard to believe that Vancouver has it’s beginnings here.
Gastown is named for John ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton who arrived in the area in 1867 to open a saloon. He was named so because of his tendency to tell tales and talk a lot. From this one saloon, the area grew and flourished as it became a central area for trade and commerce.
In 1886, the area was renamed the City of Vancouver after the British explorer George Vancouver. However, many of the buildings in this area are not from this time period as they were all destroyed in a fire later that year. Now, a statue of Gassy Jack stands at Maple Tree Square, where Alexander, Carrall, Water and Powell Streets meet.
But Gastown’s most famous landmark, and definitely not the oldest, is the steam powered clock that stands on the corner of Water and Cambie street. The steam on the clock goes off every hour on the hour and there are small chimes every 15 minutes to mark the passage of time.
Despite looking old, this clock was actually built in 1977 to cover a steam vent from the city’s distributed steam-heating system.
Despite its short history, it draws in people young and old to take a look at it’s gears and to watch it steam every hour.
Gastown is a great area for a stroll during the day or at night. The charming cobblestone streets and architecture will keep you looking up and around to take it all in.