Gastown | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Gastown

Vancouver, Canada

Luke Tomes

05 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Gastown

Gastown is the original settlement that became the core of the creation of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Gastown history

Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown neighbourhood and is named for “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the area’s first saloon. The town soon prospered as the site of Hastings Mill sawmill and seaport, rapidly becoming a general centre of trade and commerce.

In 1886, the town was incorporated as the City of Vancouver. It lost all but two of its buildings in the same year to the Great Fire of Vancouver, however the area was completely rebuilt and continued to thrive. Hastings and Main was the traditional centre of town, and the foreshore became an important staging area with the North and West Vancouver Ferries, and Union Steamships all having docks there.

Many notable merchandisers and distributors had buildings in the town. Department stores such as Spencer’s, Hudson’s Bay Company warehouse, Woodward’s, Fairbanks Morse, Army and Navy stores, and food retailers Malkins and Kelly Douglas traded and were based there.

As with many of the nearby towns, the Great Depression hit the town hard. Gastown became a largely forgotten neighbourhood until the 1960s when citizens became concerned with preserving its distinctive and historic architecture. A campaign led by businesspeople and property owners, as well as the counterculture and associated political protestors gained traction to save Gastown.

Largely a result of the efforts by Henk F. Vanderhorst, a Dutch immigrant to Canada, the town’s core began to grow again with the opening of the ‘Exposition Gallery’, an art gallery on Water Street.

Since then the town has prospered as a model for urban revival and gentrification. It is now one of the most sought-after locations for young urban professionals, and home to many of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and shopping. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2009.

Gastown today

Gastown is a neighbourhood that seamlessly combines old with new, history with the way forward. The district has retained its historic charm and independent spirit. Victorian architecture houses a thriving fashion scene, impeccably curated décor boutiques, one-of-a-kind galleries and some of the best culinary fare in Vancouver. It is an ideal neighbourhood to explore on foot.

A visit to Gastown should include a stroll along Water Street, where one will find a stunning array of old buildings, cobblestones, the Steam Clock, and vintage lampposts. Visitors can continue to the end of Water Street and see the statue of the man who started it all, Gassy Jack Deighton. Architecture and history buffs can take organized walking tours of the area to further explore.

It is recommended that visitors get a maginificent bird’s eye view of the area from the Vancouver Lookout, which rises 167 metres to give visitors a 360 degree panorama of the city.

Getting to Gastown

Gastown lies along the north of the downtown Vancouver peninsula, from Richards east to Main Street, and south to Hastings Street. Close to everything, Gastown is surrounded by popular hotels, Canada Place, Port of Vancouver and the Trade & Convention Centre.

For those travelling by car, Gastown has over 1000 covered parking spaces. Those using public transport can travel via Skytrain, Vancouver’s rapid transit system, Seabus (ferry service from the North Shore), the Canada Line, West Coast Express and city buses from all areas of Vancouver which will bring you directly to Gastown.

 

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