Gastown is one of the trendiest areas in the downtown core, bustling with fashion boutiques, restaurants, nightclubs, professional offices and housing.
As one of the oldest parts of Vancouver, it also has a fascinating history. Let’s take a look back at how the streets evolved over the last century.
The area was named after “Gassy Jack” Deighton; a steamboat captain who arrived in 1867 and opened the first saloon.
His nickname came from his talkative nature and his love of storytelling. At the time, Gastown was known as a place for trade and commerce at Burrard Inlet, and acted as the city’s wholesale produce distribution centre.
Here is what Gastown looked like 135 years ago in 1880s.
In 1886, the Great Vancouver fire occurred. The fires were originally set to clear land for development, but after an especially dry spring, the fires soon grew out of control.
Here is a photo of Gastown shortly before and after the fire. The first is from Carrall Street looking south and showing “Maple Tree” corner at Water Street. And the second is from Cordova Street looking west from Carrall Street in July 1886, five weeks after the fire.
Jumping ahead, after the Great Depression in the 1930s, the neighbourhood became a forgotten part of the city.
In the 1960s, people showed interest in preserving the area’s historic architecture by campaigning against a proposal to demolish distinctive buildings—to make room for a major freeway.
The protests eventually led the provincial government to declare the area as a historic site—where the heritage buildings have remained protected to this day.
Turning back the clock nearly 50 years ago—this is what Gastown looked like in 1968.
The below photo was taken in 1970 and shows the statue that was built in Maple Tree Square in honour of “Gassy Jack.”
One of Gastown’s most famous landmarks is the steam clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street, which was built in 1977 to cover a steam grate. While the area has changed over the years—it has managed to keep a lot of its distinctive features that make it both a unique and stylish neighbourhood for locals and tourists alike.
The below photos show Hotel Europe in 1970 and what it looks like today.