Vancouver/Gastown

Canada, Vancouver Guide (A): Vancouver/Gastown

Gastown is a well-known Vancouver historic site named after its founding father “Gassy Jack” (John Deighton) who arrived on Vancouver’s shores in 1867. Gassy set up a “saloon” armed with a keg of whisky and a talent for storytelling. It wasn’t long though before a thriving commercial hub was established. This is the location where Vancouver began. Today’s Gastown is a diverse, urban community of historical interest and unique characteristics.
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Walk Route

Guide Name: Vancouver/Gastown
Guide Location: Canada » Vancouver
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.7 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: Waterfront Station - Canadian Pacific Railway   Steamworks Brewery   Hudson House Trading Company   Steam Clock   Lamplighter Pub   The Olde Spaghetti Factory   Gassy Jack Square   BC's Western Boot Headquarters   Hotel Europe  
Author: Susan Carr
Author Bio: Susan E. Carr is a freelance writer living in British Columbia who combines her love of tourism with her love of writing into a compatible relationship. Susan is a member of the Federation of BC Writers and the Professional Writers of Canada
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Waterfront Station - Canadian Pacific Railway

1) Waterfront Station - Canadian Pacific Railway

Waterfront Station is not only the beginning of our walking tour, but the beginning of the making of the province of British Columbia. The Station is a major public transportation facility and the main terminus in downtown Vancouver. This is also the location of the CPR train station. Historically, this railway was fundamental in connecting Canada from coast to coast and was instrumental in bringing British Columbia into Confederation in 1871. The history of Gastown is the history of the arrival of the transcontinental railway on the west coast of Canada which allowed the free movement of goods and people across Canada. The current building was built in 1910 and is designed in neoclassical style. The interior features two large clocks and Canadian landscape paintings. This terminus includes SeaBus, SkyTrain, Expo Line, West Coast Express and Sky Train Canada Line.
Image by Nils Öberg under Creative Commons License.
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Steamworks Brewery

2) Steamworks Brewery

Positioned beside Waterfront Station is another Vancouver favourite – Steamworks – touted as “a brew with a view”. Steamworks is noted for craft beers and casual upscale cuisine. Their onsight brewery uses steam to fire its kettles and this source of instant heat apparently makes for a better brew. “Lions Gate Lager” is a speciality item appropriately named after the Lions Gate bridge or perhaps the “Lions” mountain seen in the distance. There is a steam line that runs through Steamworks and this is how it gets its name. There is definitely an ambiance when one takes a break at Steamworks, since it is situated within view of the waterfront and North Shore mountains. The original architecture has been maintained inside and includes massively exposed cedar beams. If your preference is wine, you can go right next door to their wine store called The Wine Thief which offers an abundance of unique wine selections.
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Hudson House Trading Company

3) Hudson House Trading Company

Hudson House Trading Company is located inside The Hudson’s Bay Company's main warehouse originally built in 1894. This 5-storey Richardson Romanesque style building was the main warehouse for fur and liquor products. Its primary function was to outfit prospectors and supply provisions. The original Hudson’s Bay Company was formed in 1670 which makes it one of the oldest chartered companies in the world. For many years, The Hudson Bay Company controlled the fur and retail trade in western and northern Canada. Hudson House Trading Company, as it is called today, has been designed to look almost exactly as it would have more than 400 years ago and represents the original trading post. Hudson House offers quality Canadian products which are showcased throughout the store in authentic and original displays. As soon as you venture into this store you will be greeted by two famous RCMP officers – “Paws” the Black Bear and “Melvin” the Moose.
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Steam Clock

4) Steam Clock

Gastown is famous for its Steam Clock which was built in order to cover a steam grate. Although the steam clock looks old, it is really a modern invention, utilizing low pressure from a downtown steam heating network. The clock has an outer case of thick bronze and weighs over 2300 pounds. Because of the glass encasement, you can actually observe the mechanism at work. The timepiece plays the Westminster Chimes every 15 minutes accompanied by a “gust of steam”. Ray Saunders, inventor and horologist, built the clock in 1977 utilizing a 1875 clock design. This location is a favourite with thousands of visitors each year, and this clock – just like Big Ben, has been photographed many thousands of times over the years. You will likely find, as so many do, that standing here for a moment is a mesmerizing experience and this is definitely an excellent place to have your picture taken.
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Lamplighter Pub

5) Lamplighter Pub

Hotel Dominion was built in 1900 and has a turn of the century attractive Victorian design. The Dominion Grand Hotel was the first hotel in Vancouver to offer motor bus service. In 1925, the Lamplighter pub, located on the ground floor, received the first pub license issued in Vancouver. This was also the first pub to serve ladies. The name Lamplighter was chosen in honour of Vancouver’s only lamplighter at the time, John Clough, whose job it was to light the coal oil street lamps. However, the city did introduce electric lights not long after. The original Dominion Grand Hotel has definitely weathered a number of not so grand years, but has undergone improvements. On venturing inside today, you will still find the original stamped tin ceiling, polished hard wood, exposed brick and gold and brass railings in the bar that has stood on this corner since Vancouver’s original beginnings.
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The Olde Spaghetti Factory

6) The Olde Spaghetti Factory

The Olde Spaghetti Factory opened in Gastown in 1970, and is one of the first businesses to open in the revitalized area. The restaurant is resplendent with beautiful tiffany lamps and antiques. In the center of the restaurant there is an original streetcar, #53, that once belonged to the British Columbia Electric Railway Company and served the city for years. Guests can be seated inside the trolley which has been fitted with tables. However, there have been a number of reports of an uninvited guest showing up from time to time. The ghostly “train conductor” is believed to have died in the underground railway line situated below the restaurant. The trolley car is often the subject of photographs some of which definitely show a shadowy male figure climbing onto the steps of the streetcar. The second ghost is somewhat of a prankster, a small dwarf-like man who dresses in red. Apparently, he prefers the kitchen where he has been seen from time to time as well as the Ladies’ room. With or without ghostly visitors, the food is good and the restaurant remains a favourite.
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Gassy Jack Square

7) Gassy Jack Square

Gassy Jack (John Deighton) (1835-1875) is the founding father of Gastown. According to all accounts, he was a Scottish seaman and a steamboat captain but is best known as a “saloon keeper”. Gassy Jack opened his very popular establishment on this site in 1867, much to the delight of loggers, fishermen and the crews and captains of sailing ships that made their way to the Burrard Inlet loaded down with logs, timber and trade items. Today his figure is immortalized as he stands on a keg of whisky in the square upon which is a plaque that states: “Here stood the old maple tree under whose branches the pioneers met in 1885 and choose the name “Vancouver” for the city". Known for his humour, jokes and endless story- telling, Gassy Jack still holds a spell over his audience as he smiles down from his whisky keg. This is a good location to have your picture taken since Gassy Jack is always smiling.
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BC's Western Boot Headquarters

8) BC's Western Boot Headquarters

If you look directly behind Gassy Jack your attention will be taken by a unique store and storefront prominently displaying boots. The store is a long established business that offers an immense array of boots for ladies and men. They have been made from cowhide, bullhide, deer skin, elk, crazy horse, python, rattlesnake, ostrich, shark skin, arctic walrus and even stingray. The boots are manufactured using the Goodyear “welt process”. It isn’t just a store for boots though, since you can also purchase belts and accessories of every kind and description. The store makes its home in a Vancouver historic building and is resplendent in outdoor displays of very big boots which line the entrance and interior of the shop. As you venture inside you will be greeted by an authentic “cowboy” hoping that you will spend awhile and – just “chew the fat”.
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Hotel Europe

9) Hotel Europe

Our final destination is Hotel Europe which is a 6-story heritage building that was originally commissioned by hotelier Angelo Calori in 1908. The building is situated on a triangular lot and is therefore triangular in shape, designed in the flatiron style. Of note, is that this was the first building in Canada built with reinforced concrete as well as one of the first buildings to be fireproofed in Western Canada. The hotel originally had a beer parlour below ground level. The building was renovated in 1983 and is currently a low-income residence. Recently, it was one of the filming locations for the movie the “Changling” with some scenes set on the roof terrace. A photograph facing it produces a unique picture for those who appreciate old and interesting architecture and building structures.

Although this tour has ended, you will have noticed a number of interesting shops, galleries and eateries along the way. Gastown is an excellent location in which to purchase souvenirs, unique items and memorabilia in remembrance of your walk through Vancouver’s beginnings, and past,in this very unique location.
Image by Abhinaba Basu under Creative Commons License.

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