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. We went through Blood Alley, Garage, and John Fluevog Shoes.
From John Fluevog Shoes, we continued west down Water Street. We passed the Gastown Parkade and the now defunct Storyeum site. The site is still used for various functions from time to time, but no truly permanent installment save the furniture store. I regret that I never got to go to Storyeum. The price tag kept me away. I wasn’t all that willing to put down $20+ a person to watch BC history. From what people say, the show was quite impressive, but the price was my stumbling point. Now it’s gone I will never know. Maurice says that Storyeum had some of the largest elevators in the city.
The Aveda along Water Street is in a building which Maurice says is supported by multiple stilts and piles in the back. Water Street was after all, originally next to the water. So many of the buildings on the north side of Water Street would have had pilings down to the water to hold up the buildings. Nowadays, there are train tracks beyond the buildings. The tracks and a standard chain-link fence separates Gastown from the actual waterfront.
Before Gastown became a historic neighbourhood, redevelopment had started to creep in. The older buildings were destroyed in favour of newer, more modern buildings. Some of these newer buildings really didn’t fit into the Gastown feel. One had even a strange overhang to complete a facade of bay windows. In fact, before the historic designation, all of Gastown was in danger of being flattened in favour of a freeway under the Vancouver Project 200.
Then we came across the good old Steam Clock at Cambie and Water. It was built in 1977 simply as a tourist attraction to draw people into town. Apparently it works as a tourist draw because it is high on the list of many visitors. As a Vancouverite, I never think much of the clock because it is a tourist attraction. Maurice says that tourists with only a weekend in town have only 3 things on their itinerary: the Steam Clock, Granville Island, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Across the street from the Gastown Steam Clock is a stone building that now houses the Water Street Cafe. This is one of the few buildings that survived the great fire of 1886, shortly after Vancouver was incorporated as a city. Maurice said that it survived because it was stone but also because the hotel residents of the time had a great incentive to save the building. They were trapped inside the building during the rapidly spreading inferno. So the residents gave their all to save the building and their lives.
East of the steam clock is a whole block of tourist gift shops. These shops don’t seem to have changed since I was a kid. They are a staple of the area and really don’t appeal to the locals that walk by. However, if you must have that Vancouver snow globe because you missed that rare Vancouver snowfall on your visit, then these are the stores for you. (I wonder if they make Vancouver rain globes; that would be much more appropriate)
The Landing sits at the end of Water Street where it eventually turns onto Cordova Street. In it’s former life, it was the home of Kelly Douglas & Co, Ltd, a wholesale grocery business. Today, it houses offices, stores on Water Street, and Steamworks. Steamworks is a large bar & restaurant that occupies the western part of The Landing on the first floor and basement. The Landing is worth stepping in to see the view from the lobby window that looks onto Burrard Inlet. In the 1980’s the inside of The Landing looked like a shopping mall. However, as businesses closed, the building was renovated and the mall removed. Steamworks took over much of the space and the rest belongs to the office portion of the building.
After The Landing, we rounded the tip of Water Street and Cordova Street to go back west along Cordova.