Places to Go

Gastown…

This one is for Ms.K and Ms.J who, in spite of their own busy lives and to-do lists, took an hour to wander the streets and see the sights with me.  (They may be the only people besides my own family who are patient enough to put up with my constant camera use…)  As we were in the city with some “free” time we walked through Vancouver’s historic Gastown neighbourhood.

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Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown core and is named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton – a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the town’s first saloon.  (You know a city is fun when the barkeep is important enough to name a neighbourhood after…)

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The statue commemorating Gassy Jack stands on another historic spot:

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There is no shortage of history or character in the area.  Between the historic buildings and the interesting shops (art, fashion, furniture, etc.) there is a lot to look at:

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Vancouver’s own flatiron building…

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Every town built around a bar is going to need a jail…

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My favourite sign…

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(because Ms.K pointed out the back side…)

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This one functions as a self portrait…just realized I can see my picture taking self in the window reflection…

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The local businesses are interesting too – my favourite Vancouver shoe legend John Fluevog has returned to Gastown where his Fox and Fluevog shoe business began decades ago, and architects, galleries and studios mix with the restaurants, clubs and street people.  Gastown has always been an artsy fringe area, which makes it  interesting but not always neat and tidy… There are many stakeholders and often disagreements about how the area should be developed (or not).  The tensions between new and old, business and social development or government and culture have always seemed a part of the local character.

A riot between the hippies and the police in 1971 over marijuana has become legendary – the incident is commemorated in a grand way with an art installation by Stan Douglas on the site of the old Woodwards building.  (I’m expecting real life anecdotes from those of you who were there in the comments…)

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These old Woodward’s signs get me every time… we have a lot of family history tied up with that store… (Mimi?  Comments?)

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Sentiment aside, Gastown is a great “wander”.  The mix of old architecture and modern life never fails to entertain.

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The traditional favourite place to stop in along the way is the Cordova Street store Salmagundi West…  My mother brought me here when I was young and I have returned over and over again.  The store hasn’t really changed, but it is always different…

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Everything you never knew you wanted… (taxidermy bear, anyone?)

On the corner of Cambie and Water Street stands Gastown’s beloved steam clock.

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The clock was built in 1977 to cover a steam grate as a way to harness the steam and to prevent street people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather.  (Again, long history of tension!) The original design was flawed and after a breakdown the clock was powered by electricity.  However it has become a major attraction in the neighbourhood and so, with the financial support of local businesses, the clock was temporarily removed and completely restored.

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I have to admit I’m a sucker for that Westminster chime…

Thanks to my lovely companions for the time to reminisce and explore – it reminded me (once again!) how lucky I am to live in such a colourful, interesting, evolving place…

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6 thoughts on “Gastown…

    • It has a place in many memories! One of the first decor items I ever bought was a crazy fringed lampshade from that store. On a trip from the island once I bought a large framed painting that I proceeded to carry around the city all weekend as it was too big to fit in any bag or box… Time for another visit soon!

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  1. Salmagundi!! Did you buy anything? I saw at least 10 things I would have considered.
    Gastown was my Haight Ashbury. I started hanging out there when I was 15. I could catch a bus right outside the school door, it was sort of my “The Prince” story. I skipped many an afternoon from school. I remember writing a very good article on the renaissance of Gastown for the school paper. John and Peter were good friends. So was Dan McLeod of the Georgia Strait, I made money selling it in New West. Oh, Tom Terrific! I will never admit to being at the police riot in August of 1971. He was good fodder for my Arts 101 class at UBC though. Woodwards is in your DNA. Bami and my dad were friends with the family from their summer home on Bowen. Daddy said that Chunky would never be a retailer and as it goes in family owned business the next and next generation ruined the company. Broke Bami’s heart. Her charge card or “da” card as it was called was #100 and something. In those days they just numbered them as the customers got one. Bami would phone and order her groceries and the family would bring them over on their boat when they came on the weekend. It was her favourite store. Tea and lemon tart’s, girl cheese sandwiches, fabric, shoes, notions, fragrances, Friday night dinners, candy counter (Bridge Mix), bakery with the doughnut fryer, peanut butter and jam in metal tins, 1.49 day. So many memories! I am kind of teary eyed.

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  2. I bought nothing! Too many options. Probably time to take Miss G so she can open all the drawers… You are right about the memories. More than I can say. I could stand on any corner and watch ghosts of me in every direction… And yet the whole neighbourhood is new in lots of ways. Time for a visit!

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