November 15, 2015
Vancouver - Gastown
From the 1860s to the 1890s Gastown formed the nucleus of the new city of Vancouver. Initially popular with lumberjacks, sawmill workers and seamen for its saloons and houses of ill-repute (around the turn of the century over 300 liquor licenses were held within Gastown's 12 block area), the neighbourhood fell into neglect and disrepair after the Great Depression. Seen as a blight on the city, Gastown's historic buildings were only saved from demolition by a successful grassroots movement to revitalize the area in the 1960s. Deemed a National Historic Site in 1971, Gastown has been dramatically reborn as a high-end shopping district where many historic buildings from Vancouver's early days survive.
A horse-drawn cart laden with goods turns from Abbott onto Water Street. You can see one of the buildings has survived.
West Hastings was a lot more happening 100 years ago. Here we're looking east down Hastings from Homer. Looks like I was a few feet off from the place the original photographer stood. Notice the newspaper boy in the left foreground.
Maple Tree Square. The heart of Gastown, the statue of 'Gassy Jack' Deighton stands on the spot of the original maple tree that gave the square its name. 'Gassy Jack' was called so for his tendency to talk endlessly and the whole district of Gastown bears his nickname. He gained fame in 1867 when the only European settlement on the south side of the Burrard Inlet was a sawmill that banned its workers from drinking on company property. Gassy Jack arrived at this spot just over the sawmill's property line with a barrel of whiskey and announced he would give free liquor to whoever built him a saloon. The sawmill workers had one up and running by the end of that day. Vancouver was born.
Water and Abbot, looking towards Richards. On the tall building on the left you can just barely notice the J. Leckie Co. Limited Wholesale Boots, Shoes, etc. sign has been painted over. Just as striking as the buildings themselves are the businesses they housed, and how dramatically the types of businesses and the way they advertise has changed over the past century. What sort of businesses will be inhabiting these buildings a century from now, and how will they advertise?
Looking West on Cordova Street several weeks after the Great Fire of Vancouver. A very Western frontier town type of feel.
Georgia street in 1937 at night. There's fresh snow on the ground. Vancouver used to be filled with neon signs and lights but in the 1960s city council decided they were a blight and they rapidly disappeared from downtown streets.
The intersection of Homer and Pender right after World War I.
A fire crew on Water Street battles a massive blaze that has broken out at AP Slade's warehouse.
West Hastings seen from Homer. A Church of Scientology has moved into the former dentist's office to wage the holy war on psychology.