Welcome to Gastown, where the city of Vancouver began. Gastown is a Parks Canada National Historic Site, situated at the northeast end of Downtown Vancouver, adjacent to the Downtown Eastside. Founded in 1867, the community was originally named after the first settler and colourful saloon owner ‘Gassy’ Jack Deighton. Today, the area is a charming mix of old and new with its cobbled streets, antique gaslights, Victorian architecture, and unique tangle of mews, courtyards and passage housing boutiques, restaurants, and entertainment.
Visit the world’s first Gastown Steam Clock. Each 1/4 hour the clock sounds Westminster chimes on 5 brass steam whistlers. The 1875 replica movement is powered by a ‘falling ball’ drive. Designed and built by Raymond Saunders in 1977, it has a cast bronze case and weighs over 2 tons.
‘Gassy” Jack Deighton’s historic saloon/hotel was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1886. The fire, that completely destroyed Vancouver, was started by a Canadian Pacific Railway clearing fire that burned out of control. In less than an hour, only two of the 400 original houses were left standing.
The statue of the loquacious Gassy Jack stands in Maple Tree Square. The Fisherhead Water Fountain stands near the Lamplighter Pub in the Dominion Hotel – it was the first Vancouver establishment to serve alcohol to women.
Historical references, such as Bloody Alley and Gaolers Mews, date from 1850s, where bloody brawls within the former resulted in incarceration in a small unlocked cabin in the latter. Gastown’s first constable, Jonathan Miller, ankle chained the prisoners who were then guarded by John Clough, a one-armed drunkard.
The Europe Hotel, was built in 1892 by Italian businessman, Angelo Colari. Known in its day as the finest hotel in town, it was the first fireproof building in western Canada.
Gastown is home to several prominent galleries representing the finest selection of Canadian Native art and sculpture in Western Canada.
The 300 block of West Cordova Street is one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets. Nowhere else will you find collectibles, antiques, Canadian designer fashions, and funky eateries on one block.
A popular walking tour of Gastown is conducted daily from June through August. The free 90-minute tour starts from the Gastown Steam Clock and Gassy Jack statue in Maple Tree Square. For tour schedules, contact the Gastown Business Improvement Society.
Gastown is close to Vancouver’s downtown business core and hotels. To the west is the spectacular Canada Place, an easy five-minute walk from the Cruise Ship Terminal or the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. To the east, where Gastown and Chinatown, meet is the Sun Yat Sen Gardens. To the south are BC Place, Rogers Arena (formerly GM Place), and International Village.
Gastown is easily accessible by SkyTrain, Vancouver’s rapid transit system, SeaBus (ferry service from the North Shore), West Coast Express and city buses from all areas of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.