April 7 2021
I AM GASTOWN: WILL WOODS, FORBIDDEN VANCOUVER WALKING TOURS
Written by Gastown Admin
Q: What connects you to Gastown?
I own and operate Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours! I’ve been creating and leading walking tours through Gastown for the past nine years.
Q: Can you name a “Gastown moment” (something that wouldn’t happen in any other ‘hood)?
Leading walking tours we see so many colourful, beautiful, and strange moments all the time. More than once we’ve seen Ray Saunders, who built the Gastown Steam Clock, up a ladder fixing it. He’s always been kind enough to stop and chat with our guests for a few minutes.
We’ve led our groups through more movie sets than we can remember. Gastown has been 1940s New York City, Victorian-era London, a war zone, you name it!
But for me, the most special Gastown moment was when leading a group on our Lost Souls of Gastown tour one night we came across a busker atop the Gassy Jack statue in Maple Tree Square. He was playing an accordion in full-period costume. He looked like one of our storytellers! I don’t know if he was supposed to be up there, but his music was so haunting and beautiful — our group gathered around and quietly listened. For a moment all the traffic stopped and the atmosphere hung so heavy around us, it felt like time stood still for a few seconds.
Q: What is Your Favourite Gastown “Fun Fact”?
Recently, we’ve been researching the Scurry family — an early black pioneer family who ran a barbershop on Abbott Street back in the 1880s. The father Hiram went on to become a successful amateur inventor, their son Elijah opened the city’s first railway porters’ club, and granddaughter Barbara became the first black athlete to represent Canada! The fun fact is that the site where their barbershop once stood is today JD’s Barbershop!
Our in house historian Lani Russwurm who wrote this wonderful blog on the family: https://forbiddenvancouver.ca/blog/black-history-month-the-remarkable-scurry-family/
Q: If you could grab a coffee with a historic Gastown figure- Who would it be?
Q: What Makes Gastown a National Historic Site?
To me, the location of Gastown sandwiched between the downtown core, the railyards, the DTES, Victory Square and Chinatown, makes Gastown our city’s “home.” its only six acres in size but it’s hard to find a story from our city’s past that in some way doesn’t touch Gastown.
Q: What’s your favourite Gastown landmark?
Definitely the Hotel Europe, it’s such a fabulous and unique building. Love the original purple areaway tiles on the sidewalk outside the building too!
Q: What is something you would love to see added to Gastown in the Future?
Indigenous Art in the centre of Gastown, something to represent the people who lived here before Vancouver was Vancouver. For example, many do not know that the Squamish People rescued many from the Great Fire- Saving countless lives.
Learn more about Forbidden Vancouver here: https://forbiddenvancouver.ca/