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Vancouver, Canada ~ Historic Old Neighborhood with a Steam Powered Clock

Updated on September 30, 2016

Gastown in Vancouver, Canada

Historic Gastown street
Historic Gastown street | Source

Vancouver's Gastown

To get a true historical perspective of the City of Vancouver in Canada, one should visit the original site which is now known as Gastown.

This particular area dates back to the time when Canada first became a nation!

Back then, native Indians lived there and some of the very first white settlers developed a prosperous lumbering industry.

Gold exploration also brought prospectors to what was to become Canada back in those early days.

In the lumber mills alcohol was not allowed on site.

The arrival of "Gassy Jack" Deighton changed the leisure time habits of the lumbermen working at the saw mills forever.

Gastown photos

Statue of Gassy Jack Deighton
Statue of Gassy Jack Deighton | Source
Interesting building
Interesting building | Source
Advertising on side of building for the Brother's restaurant.
Advertising on side of building for the Brother's restaurant. | Source
Famous Gastown steam clock
Famous Gastown steam clock | Source
Gastown steam clock draws many tourists
Gastown steam clock draws many tourists | Source

Steam Clocks

There are very few functioning steam clocks in the world and several of them just happen to be in Canada.

This particular one was built by clockmaker Raymond Saunders in 1977.

Every quarter hour it has a whistle chime that plays the Westminster Quarters.

Jack Deighton

Jack Deighton was a river boat pilot turned tavern and hotel owner.

Supposedly he was a great talker and could spin tales endlessly, thus the name "Gassy." He offered to bring whisky to the lumbermen if they would build him a tavern. It did not take much persuasion on his part to get that accomplished.

Soon, after a hard day's work, the lumbermen would cross over to Gassy Jack's tavern and enjoy some whisky and be entertained with never-ending stories for hours. This they liked! Prior to that saloon being built, the closest one was about 25 miles away. The saloon was part of a two story hotel named the Deighton Hotel.

Further development of the area ensued.

In 1870 the area was called Granville named after the British colonial secretary, Earl Granville. However, locals still referred to it mostly as Gastown.

In 1886, this area of Gastown was incorporated into the City of Vancouver which was named after a British explorer, George Vancouver. But shortly after that, a raging fire practically decimated the area. All but 2 of the original buildings burned to the ground and were ruined.

With much effort it was once again rebuilt into a live-able community when the Great Depression occurred. As with most of the country it was hit hard but did not rebound as other areas did. It turned into something of a "skid row" and was no longer a desirable area.

Discussion among some residents in Vancouver would have had the entire area razed, but there were others who wanted to preserve Gastown because of it's historic significance. Those people's ideas prevailed and in the 1960s after renovation efforts succeeded, Gastown was reborn.

The cobble-stoned streets and mixture of building styles makes this a unique area in which to visit today. Of course there are a great number of businesses that now call Gastown home. Tourists can find almost anything that they could desire by way of restaurants, shops, etc.

One interesting and unique landmark is the Edwardian designed Steam Clock which graces a street in Gastown. It was the very first of its kind in the world!

The Steam Clock stands 16 feet high and has a clock face on all four sides framed in antique bronze. It is powered by an underground steam mechanism that also heated buildings in the area.

One can view the steam escaping from the top of the clock and every quarter hour you can also hear the musical sounds that emanate from the world famous steam clock.

Tour buses regularly take visitors through this historic neighborhood of Gastown in Vancouver and it is one sight that will definitely add to your enjoyment of understanding the history of this third largest cosmopolitan city in all of Canada.

Steam Powered Clocks

Have you ever seen a steam powered clock?

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Ben's Tours of Gastown

Gastown, Vancouver's First Community

Wish to read about more interesting places in British Columbia, Canada?

Click on the highlighted links below:

Gastown in Vancouver, Canada

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Gastown Steam Clock

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5 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of Gastown in Vancouver, Canada

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Patricia,

      That clock is certainly an attention grabber. Wishing you a wonderful new year also and hope you are surrounded by legions of angels.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Au fait,

      There can't be many steam powered clocks in operation these days. It is the only one that I have ever seen in person or heard it when it whistled. Stay warm up there tonight! It is supposed to be mid-20's in Houston tonight! Brr! Appreciate the votes and share.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      How cool that clock is. I would not mind having one of those on my street corner. My wish to travel to Canada one day and this would definitely be a stop I would make

      Happy New Year to you Peggy...been wanting to say that for four days. Wishing you much happiness and joy this year.

      Angels are on the way to you and your loved ones. ps

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 2 years ago from North Texas

      Very interesting and great photos as usual. I don't think I've ever heard of a steam powered clock before. This looks like a great place to keep in mind for summer vacation. Right now it's so cold here in N. Texas it's hard to believe in just a few weeks it will be horrible hot again.

      Voting this article up and BAUI, sharing with followers.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas


      There is so much to see and do in the beautiful city of Vancouver. We spent 5 days there while on vacation one year and could have spent much more time. I think that you would really enjoy visiting there! Other hubs tell more of the story!

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