Start this tour at (1) Waterfront Station (601 W. Cordova Street), which was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) as the Pacific terminus for transcontinental passenger trains from Montreal and Toronto. In 1979 the SeaBus began running its passenger ferries between here and North Vancouver, and in 1986 the SkyTrain also began operations. In 1987 Starbucks opened its first international location here.
From here, take a left and head into Gastown. During the city’s early years, this area attracted wholesalers who built warehouses near the wharves and railroad tracks. But after the 1920s, Gastown began to deteriorate, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that revitalization efforts sought to protect the historic buildings.
At the western tip of Gastown, where Cordova and Water Streets meet, the (2) Holland Block (364 Water Street) was built in 1896 at the angle the land was laid out in a CPR land grant.
Head down Water Street and you’ll see the (3) Gastown Steam Clock on the corner at Cambie Street. Built in 1977 as a replica of an 1875 design, it is powered by a series of underground pipes, which also heat many downtown buildings. The clock whistles and shoots steam every quarter hour.
Just past the clock you’ll find (4) Hill’s Native Art (165 Water Street; www.hillsnativeart.com), where you can get affordable First Nations art, and the (5) Inuit Gallery (www.inuit.com), which sells museum-quality sculptures, carvings, and jewelry.
Continue down Water Street and take a right on Carrall Street. On the right, you’ll see the (6) Byrnes Block (Two Water Street). Built in 1887 after the 1886 fire that burned much of the city, it was one of the first brick buildings in Vancouver and became one of the first buildings revitalized in the 1960s.
In front of it is (7) Maple Tree Square, where a statue of Gassy Jack Deighton perched atop a whiskey barrel marks the spot where Vancouver was born. Deighton opened Vancouver’s first saloon in 1867 and had a propensity to chatter on (in those days, chatty was referred to as “gassy”).
Across the street, at 43 Powell Street, the interesting-shaped (8) Europe Hotel (now apartments), built in 1909, was the city’s first fireproof hotel.
Behind Maple Tree Square at 12 Water Street is (9) Gaoler’s Mews, site of Vancouver’s first jail. The jail burned in the 1886 fire and was replaced by a fire hall and later a parking garage. Today, shops and restaurants surround a pleasant courtyard.
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