Gas Town is the original settlement that would eventually become Vancouver. Today it is a national historic site.
Gas Town was Vancouver’s first downtown and was named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire man, steamboat captain and barkeeper who arrived in 1867 to open the area’s first saloon. “Gassy Jack” acquired his nickname, from the Yorkshire expression “gassing” meaning to talk a lot.
In 1886 Gas Town was incorporated into the city that was now known as Vancouver. It fell victim to the great Vancouver fire that same year, losing all but two of its buildings, but the area was rebuilt and continued to thrive.
Gas Town found new life as the centre of the city’s wholesale produce distribution until the Great Depression in the 1939’s. It was also the centre of the city’s drinking life. There were 300 licences establishments in a twelve block area.
In the 1960’s citizens became concerned with preserving Gas Towns distinctive and historical architecture, which like nearby Chinatown was scheduled to be demolished to build a freeway in the city’s Downtown area.
Gas Town’s most famous landmark in the steam powered clock in the corner of Cambie and Water Street. It was built in 1977 to cover a steam grate, part of Vancouver’s steam heating system, as a way of harnessing the steam and to prevent street people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather.
Today Gas Town is a mix of contemporary fashion and interior furnishing boutiques, tourist orientated businesses, restaurants and nightclubs, art galleries, music and art studios and film schools, with popular annual events taking place in the streets of Gas Town.
In 2009 Gas Town was designated a national Historic Site of Canada.