Established the same year that Canada became a nation, Gastown grew into Canada’s third largest city and one of its most cosmopolitan. But the Gastown district today retains its historic charm, independent spirit and distinctiveness. There’s no mistaking Gastown for any other area of Vancouver, or of Canada for that matter.
1867: The south shore of Burrard Inlet was a wilderness. Its only non-native settlement was a lumber mill where the owner didn’t allow alcohol on the premises.
One September day, “Gassy Jack” Deighton arrived (he received his nickname because of his penchant for spinning tall tales and talking without end). He stepped ashore with a barrel of whiskey, telling the millworkers that if they’d build him a saloon, he’d serve them drinks. The saloon was up and running within a day…just across the property line of the mill. Gastown was born.
1870: On March 1st, in order to give it a more distinguished name, Gastown was officially proclaimed to be “Granville”, after the British colonial secretary. But everybody in the rough and tumble settlement continued to call it Gastown.
1886: Gastown was incorporated as the City of Vancouver, after British explorer, George Vancouver. That was April 6th. On June 13th, a brush-clearing fire got out of control and turned all but two of Vancouver’s 400 buildings to ashes.
1920s: Gastown grew and prospered, as did the rest of the City of Vancouver. But good times couldn’t last forever.
Depression Years: Gastown fell on hard times and deteriorated into a stereotypical skid road area until the 1960s.
1960s: With talk of demolishing the area becoming more widespread, a group of dedicated citizens took it upon themselves to save Gastown’s distinctive architecture and character. The city rallied around them. Gastown was not just saved, it was reborn.
1971: The provincial government declared Gastown an historic area, protecting its heritage buildings.
2009: Gastown was designated a National Historic Site by the federal government.
Today: Gastown is a refreshing mix of old and new, downhome and upscale, a place for tourists, Vancouver residents and office workers alike. Various shops have the streets buzzing during the day. A host of restaurants and nightspots keeps the area humming into the wee hours. And, more and more, Gastown is becoming home to permanent residents…just like in the old days.