|Steam clock in Gastown|
The first Gastown BBQ & Chili Festival happened this Saturday and Sunday. One street is closed for live music, a block-party atmosphere and a “food competition”. We went there and figured out we were lucky that we did not hype up this event to visitors from out of town who may have come with us. This “festival” was so sad and it could be not only the first but the last too. Happyfully, Vancouver has a lot of other good festivals. Today, I would rather write about a part of the city where this not-worth-mentioning-festival happend.
The area was originally called Gassy's after the saloon proprietor Gassy Jack Deighton. His saloon was very popular among the nearby workers and they built their houses near that area. After being rebuilt from the fire in 1886 the village was renamed Gastown.
Gastown found new life as the centre of the city's wholesale produce distribution until the Great Depression in the 1930s. It also was the centre of the city's drinking life (there were 300 licensed establishments).
After the Depression, Gastown was a largely forgotten neighbourhood of the larger city. The city grew more and more westward and changed its name to Vancouver, while Gastown became known as Old Vancouver. Under the pressure of the local community to preserve Gastown, it was designated a historic area by the provincial government in February 1971, and the old buildings were saved from the wrecker.
Today, Gastown is a famous tourist site. It is an excellent area for walking tours because it is close to most downtown hotels, shops and attractions. The Gassy Jack statue stands proudly on a whiskey barrel, his first market product after opening his saloon. The renovated Gastown, with its cobblestone streets and restored Victorian buildings, is a pleasant place for strolling. It also contains some nice malls together with a lot of souvenir shops, First Nations galleries and street vendors.
One of tourist attractions in Gastown is the unique steam clock. The Gastown Steam Clock was the world's first steam clock and was originally built to cover a steam grate as a part of Vancouver's distributed steam-heating system. The clock was built as a way to harness the steam and to prevent street people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather. The 2 ton weighing clock whistles every 15 minutes.
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Hotel Europe is a six-story heritage building located in the Gastown area. The building was commissioned by hotelier Angelo Calori and built in 1908 - 1909 by Parr and Fee Architects. Situated on a triangular lot, the building is designed in the flatiron style. Canadians are so proud of Hotel Europe, their “pioneer Canadian architecture”, but actually the architects copied the design from New York’s Flatiron building. It was the first reinforced concrete structure built in Canada and the earliest fireproof hotel in Western Canada. The Europe was one of Vancouver’s finest hotels. The basement housed one of the city’s most popular bars and it was here that much of the business of early Vancouver was conducted. It is shame but the city decided in 1983 to convert the building into low income housing units.
The Hotel Europe was one of the filming location for the Canadian suspense movie “The Changeling” from 1980 (not “Changeling” directed by Clint Eastwood from 2008). In the movie, the building housed the Seattle Historical Society. Some scenes are set on its roof terrace.
I want to mention that famous New York's Flatiron Building (1902) was not the first modern building of its triangular ground plan. Before this one in New York, Canadians had already built The Gooderham Building in Toronto (1892).