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Historic Vancouver Gastown Neighborhood With Steam Powered Clock

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Historic Gastown street

Historic Gastown street

Vancouver's Gastown

To get a 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. Native Americans 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 forever changed that.

Jack Deighton was a riverboat 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 entertainment with never-ending stories for hours. Before the building of that saloon, the closest one was about 25 miles away. It was part of a two-story hotel named the Deighton Hotel.

Changes Over Time

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 the City of Vancouver incorporated this area, named after a British explorer George Vancouver. But shortly after that, a raging fire practically decimated the area. All but two of the original buildings burned to the ground.

With much effort, it was once again rebuilt into a livable 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 would have had the entire area razed, but others wanted to preserve Gastown because of its historical significance. Those people's ideas prevailed, and in the 1960s, after renovation efforts succeeded, Gastown was reborn.

The cobblestone streets and a mixture of building styles make this a unique area to visit today. Of course, there are many businesses now calling Gastown home. Tourists can find almost anything that they could desire by way of restaurants, shops, etc.

Tourists are entertained by the Gastown, Vancouver, Canada steam clock.

Tourists are entertained by the Gastown, Vancouver, Canada steam clock.

Steam Clock

One fascinating 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 derives its power from 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 hear the musical sounds that emanate from the world-famous steam clock.

There are very few functioning steam clocks in the world, and several of them are in Canada. This particular one was built in 1977 by clockmaker Raymond Saunders. Every quarter-hour, a whistle chime plays the Westminster Quarters.


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

That is how my mother, niece, and I became familiar with this charming neighborhood after taking a Vancouver tour.

Steam Powered Clocks


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 04, 2021:

Hi Jack,

It was the first steam powered clock we had ever seen. Interesting! Thanks for your comment.

Jack on March 04, 2021:

Very interesting and informative. Never heard of steam clocks before reading this article.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 08, 2015:

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 Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 07, 2015:

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.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on January 04, 2015:

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

C E Clark from North Texas on January 04, 2015:

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 Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 22, 2013:


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!

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 20, 2013:

I've never even thought about visiting Vancouver before this; that's what I love so much about HubPages. I enjoyed this hub -- both the history and the photos. I would now love to visit. Voted up and more!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 24, 2013:

Hi truthfornow,

This hub merely featured just the Gastown neighborhood which is a small older part of Vancouver. We were introduced to it when taking a tour of the city. To see more of Vancouver, check out my other related hubs. We fell in love with that gorgeous city...especially Stanley Park. Thanks for your comment. Hope you get to visit up there someday.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 23, 2013:

Hi Gail Meyers,

Gastown is just one of the interesting old neighborhoods in Vancouver. If you plan a visit there, you should see it and many other places as well. We were introduced to it on a tour of the city. Vancouver is a great and scenic city! Thanks for your votes and comment.

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on February 23, 2013:

Like the idea of cobblestone streets and the steam clock. You did a good job of detailing the history of the city and generating my interest in visiting one day. Thanks.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 23, 2013:

Hi Mary,

The neighborhood of Gastown is old and quaint but that steamclock out on the sidewalk in a public area that operates every quarter hour and plays a tune really sets it apart. It is the only operational steam driven clock that I have ever seen...and there are not that many in the entire world. Appreciate your comment, vote and the share.

Gail Meyers from Johnson County, Kansas on February 23, 2013:

I have never been there, but it looks like it would be a fabulous place to visit! I love unique, quaint places as this appears to be. Thanks for sharing this information. Voted up and useful.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on February 23, 2013:

What an interesting place this must be to visit. I couldn't believe a steam powered clock!!

I did spend a little time in Vancouver when my daughter worked in Seattle, but I didn't have the time to spend like I would have liked.

You have been so fortunate to have visited the places you write about.

Voted UP and will share.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 21, 2012:

Hi alocsin,

We first were introduced to Gastown when we took a tour of Vancouver. Then we went back on our own to see more of that historic neighborhood. It was the first steam clock that we had ever seen, and it is not only unusual but certainly draws attention as it regularly goes through its cycles. Thanks for your comment and votes.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on April 20, 2012:

Your descriptions of Gastown remind me a lot of the old part of Seattle, not to far from Vancouver. Alas, I missed this area when I was in Vancouver. That steam clock sounds fascinating -- never heard of one before. Voting this Up and Interesting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 06, 2010:

Hello ss sneh,

Yes there were many native (red) Indians living in North America prior to its being "discovered" by people from other continents. There are a great number of beautiful totem poles in the Vancouver area that came from the Indian tribes and museums are filled with artifacts from the Indian tribe settlements of long ago. Glad that you enjoyed this history of the Gastown area in Vancouver.

ss sneh from the Incredible India! on July 06, 2010:

Hi! Nice historical description of evolution of Vancouver!

I am surprised to hear that natives were Indians(you mean red Indians isn't it?) -- Thanks

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 06, 2009:

Hi Jimmy,

I see you are working your way through a good many of my travel hubs. Since you are planning a re-visit to Vancouver Island in the future...and if you are also going to get back to Vancouver on the mainland, be SURE and visit Stanley Park. Great place to visit with lots to do and see.

The suspension bridge is nearby...not actually in Stanley Park. See this hub: Vancouver's famous Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park

Thanks for the comment.

Jimmy Fuentes from Rancho Cucamonga on June 06, 2009:

We walked to the Gaslamp district (should have taken the bikes from the hotel - quite a ride), anyway, we found all kinds of restaurants and other neat little shops. A very good time. We meant to get over to stanley park but we weren't able to. Isn't there a suspension bridge in the park ? I thought someone said something about that.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 29, 2009:

My pleasure, Enelle. There is so much to like about Vancouver and that entire area! Happy that you liked this and thanks for the comment.

Enelle Lamb from Canada's 'California' on May 29, 2009:

I live about an hour's drive (can you tell I'm Canadian? LOL) from Vancouver, and it was especially nice to read about one of our landmarks on hubpages. Thanks for the great review :D

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 25, 2009:

Hi Melody, I agree! Thanks.

Hi Nolimits Nana,

Yes, I had read that about Vancouver and after seeing it, I am not surprised. Thanks for the comment.

Nolimits Nana on May 25, 2009:

Another great Vancouver hub.

Did you know that Vancouver is listed as the 4th most desirable city in the world?

Melody Lagrimas from Philippines on May 25, 2009:

Wonderful place.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 24, 2009:

Hi Mardi,

We missed the nightlife in Gastown but from what I read and from what you just said, it is obviously a fun place to be. Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 24, 2009:

Hi Pete,

We took a tour of Vancouver (which we almost always do when in a new area) and the unusual clock was pointed out to us. When we went back on our own time, we got a close up look and got to listen to it as it piped out it's melody on the quarter hour.

OK......I'm done for now describing Vancouver. Granville Island is another great place to visit and we spent a chunk of a day there. Chinatown, etc., I'll leave some topics for others to describe.

We did as much as we could in our 5 days there and have loads of memories. Vancouver is a great place! If I would ever go back, I would concentrate on seeing other things next time, but would probably want to stay in that same hotel. The views were gorgeous!

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Mardi Winder-Adams from Western Canada and Texas on May 24, 2009:

Ah, Gastown, a great place to go for music and food. I spent many an evening at the Lamplighter playing pool and enjoying a beer or two!

Pete Maida on May 24, 2009:

A 16ft high steam clock; I guess I missed that.

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