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Gastown neighbourhood near Vancouver, BC
By Xicotencatl [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Vancouver’s Neighborhood of Gastown

Gastown boasts of legendary items such as the classic triangular shaped Hotel Europe, the Steam Clock, and 100-year-old lampposts. Gastown’s history holds Vancouver together.

The Naming Of Gastown

Gastown was named after Captain John Deighton, whose nickname was ‘Gassy Jack.’ The reason was that Deighton loved to talk for hours on end.

He was one of the first settlers to reach this area in 1867, having sailed his way to the Burrard Inlet area from New Westminster which was the central area. He offered a drink to the mill workers if they help him build his saloon. The Globe Saloon was up and running about a day later.

Many others followed Gassy Jack’s footsteps, and the area soon became a cozy community right up on the waterfront. , There were enough people and small businesses by 1870 for the area to be surveyed, and it was ‘officially’ named Granville Townsite. Many people still referred to it by Gastown. The name fell out of use until the 1960’s, where it was revived again.

Early 1800’s Development

About six hundred men were residing in the Gastown area filling up approximately twelve buildings in the area. The Vancouver city was incorporated in April 1886, because of a petition to the provincial government started by the current residents.

It was not exactly a modern architecture central because thrush and an abundance of forest surrounded the area. The buildings were built with wood, and most of the buildings were built on pilings because of the proximity to the waterfront. Roads were made up of dirt and mud. Sewage was dumped straight into the inlet and washed away by the sea.

The Canadian Pacific Railway was built just west of Gastown when British Columbia joined the confederation in 1871.

The Great Vancouver Fire

The city of Vancouver was burnt down just two months after it was incorporated.

‘The Great Fire,’ started all of a sudden and spread aggressively, burning down everything except three buildings in under an hour. A crew from the Canadian Pacific Railway men kept an eye on cleaning the flames that were there the day before. The initial flames started in Hamilton and Granville streets, and heavy winds blew the fire into the streets.

Growth Of The (Second) City

The city was quickly rebuilt after the fire, making sure that the structures of the buildings were stronger and built of brick. Byrne Building – Gassy Jack’s original saloon, and Ferguson Block are the two commercial buildings constructed after the fire that remain strong today.

The regrowth of the old Gastown fueled an economic boom. Gastown became a refuge for manufacturers and merchants, boasting a variety of retail, second-hand stores, and artisan shops. By the 20th century, it was known as the wholesale district.

Skid Road

The capitalism movement of Gastown soon turned towards the west, and the heart of the city moved along with it. The Canadian Pacific Railway company owned the land west to Gastown, and development was encouraged to increase land prices. The first Hotel Vancouver was built at Georgia and Granville.

Hudson’s Bay Company wanted to build a store on the west side as well. Those factors together pushed the economic growth towards the area which is now known as Pender street. This left Gastown threatened and in the slumps.

Accommodation in Gastown was mainly focused towards the unemployed and homeless, and it solidified during the years following The Great Depression.

Logging was still a big industry in the Granville area during 1942-1944. Gastown was known as the ‘Skid Road,’ named after the heavy machinery used to transport trees from the forest to a landing site. It was another name implying an impoverished area, and the degradation of buildings contributed significantly to this factor.

Project 200

The chain reaction which started the massive transformation of Gastown was a development project titled Project 200.

It was initially for the waterfront area, and the buildings in Gastown west of Abbott Street were meant to be taken down and replaced. That plan was later amended to spare most of the premises due to the considerable historical value held by the buildings.

Developers started realizing the potential of Gastown even though only fourteen of the proposed buildings in Project 200 made it to completion. Buildings were being restored and renovated.

Historical value played a significant part in the rebranding of the neighborhood. The name Gastown was brought back in remembrance of ‘Gassy Jack.’ Retailers and businesses opened with a historical theme in mind. The city hesitantly agreed to the rebranding of Gastown and pitched in by putting in items like Maple Tree square, brick paving, and the famous steam clock.

Gastown is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the downtown Vancouver area today. It is also arguably one of the most interesting neighborhoods in entire North America. It is one of the must visit place in your lifetime. If you are looking for other great places to visit in Vancouver we recommend Commercial Drive or Kerrisdale.

Visit us online or see directions to our office from Gastown.

Gastown Postal Code:

  • V6B 1A7
 Gastown Geo Coordinates:
Lat: 49.2832584
Long: -123.1079244