The Vancouver Heritage Foundation‘s walking tour is in full swing. I signed up for the last of the 3 Gastown walking tours. Again, the ever bubbly and informative Maurice Guibord was our guide today. We met at the intersection of Carrall and Water where the statue of Gassy Jack stands.
As Maurice explains, this very intersection is where Gastown and Vancouver all started. John “Gassy Jack” Deighton had come up river and around the inlet to this spot with his wife and plenty of whiskey. The local mill workers already in the area eagerly built a saloon at Gassy Jack’s behest in exchange for all the whiskey they could down in a sitting. The make shift saloon was done within 24 hours.
The saloon was near this spot where the statue now stands. The statue itself has made its rounds around the intersection depending on where there was space. It now sits on the western point in front of the Six Acres storefront.
From Gassy Jack’s statue, we headed south along Carrall Street to the entrance of Blood Alley. It was named Blood Alley because of the many butcher shops that used be in the area that would dump all the bloody water into alley at the end of the day. It’s also rumoured to be where many a mugging took place. I’m not sure about that part. Nowadays, it’s a quiet little alley with an early example of social housing on the south side of the tiny square and gentrified buildings on the north complete with upscale restaurants like the Salt Tasting Room.
Just behind the Salt Tasting Room is a collection of heritage buildings now collectively known as Garage. This was my first time in this part of Gastown. Garage now houses a collection of homes, small offices, and cafes. Restaurants such as the Gastown favourite, Boneta, now call Garage home. Garage is composed of the Alhambra Building, Gaoler’s Mews courtyard, Nagle Brothers Garage, and the 1889 Cordage Building. When looking up within Garage, there are the new additions for homes above the businesses. My favourite part of Garage is the large breezeway from Water Street right into the centre of the complex. I need to go back and explore some more and maybe sit down for a cup of coffee in one of the cafes.
We exited back out onto Water Street and made our way west. Gastown has changed so much when I was a kid in the 80’s and 90’s. Many of the heritage buildings that line Water Street were probably abandoned when I was young. Now life is starting to come back to the street with modern furniture and clothing shops.
Water Street and Gastown is now more than just tourists milling about. People have actually moved into Gastown and live in and around it. Maurice said that Gastown is a little like the new Yaletown. Yaletown was the yuppie place to be for years and it still is very upscale and trendy, but Gastown is starting to go in that direction. Even major companies like Pixar have already made Gastown home to their new Vancouver studio.
One of my favourite stores on Water Street has to be John Fluevog Shoes. It’s not so much that I like to buy their shoes because I don’t own any of their shoes. I love that the store was built in an alleyway between two buildings. The glass canopy above covers the alley below which is now home to some of the most famous shoes to come out of Vancouver. Even some of our tour participants remember working with John Fluevog in his early days and getting some shoes way back when.
Thanks to John Fluevog Shoes to let us trod into their stores for a peek and photographs on such a rainy Friday afternoon. We went back out into the rain with our brollies and continued west towards the famous Gastown Steam Clock.