Gastown is a national historic site in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the northeast end of Downtown adjacent to the Downtown Eastside. Its historical boundaries were the waterfront (now Water Street and the CPR tracks), Columbia Street, Hastings Street, and Cambie Street, which were the borders of the 1870 townsite survey, the proper name and postal address of which was Granville, B.I. ("Burrard Inlet"). The official boundary does not include most of Hastings Street except for the Woodward's and Dominion Buildings, and stretches east past Columbia St., to the laneway running parallel to the west side of Main Street.
Gastown is a mix of "hip" contemporary fashion and interior furnishing boutiques, tourist-oriented businesses (generally restricted to Water Street), restaurants, nightclubs, poverty and newly upscale housing. In addition, there are law firms, architects and other professional offices, as well as computer and internet businesses, art galleries, music and art studios, and acting and film schools.
In February 2013 The Gastown Gazette began publishing local news and stories about the ongoing protests against gentrification in the Downtown Eastside and Gastown area of Vancouver. The community paper has since gathered provincial and national attention for its uncompromising and hard-hitting reports on the neighborhood.
Gastown has become a hub for technology and new media. It has attracted companies such as Zaui Software, Idea Rebel, MetroQuest, BootUp Labs Entrepreneurial Society, SEOinVancouver and MarketR.
Popular annual events that take place on the cobblestone streets of Gastown include the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix international bicycle race.
In June 2004, Storyeum opened in Gastown. It was a lively theatrical 65-minute show that re-enacted the history of BC using eight sets that were all located below street level. Unfortunately, due to mounting debt, the attraction closed its doors in October 2006.
The Gastown Steam Clock:
Gastown's most famous (though nowhere near oldest) landmark is the steam-powered clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. It was built in 1977 to cover a steam grate, part of Vancouver's distributed steam-heating system, as a way to harness the steam and to prevent street people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather. Its original design was faulty and it had to be powered by electricity after a breakdown. The steam mechanism was completely restored with the financial support of local businesses as it had become a major tourist attraction, and is promoted as a heritage feature although it is of modern invention. The steam used is low pressure downtown-wide steam heating network (from a plant adjacent to the Georgia Viaduct) that powers a miniature steam engine in its base, in turn driving a chain lift. The chain lift moves steel balls upward, where they are unloaded and roll to a descending chain. The weight of the balls on the descending chain drives a conventional pendulum clock escapement, geared to the hands on the four faces. The steam also powers the clock's sound production as whistles are used instead of bells to produce the Westminster "chime" and to signal the time. In October 2014 the clock was temporarily removed for major repairs by its original builder, and is due to be reinstalled in January 2015.
The Gastown Steam Clock appears on the cover of the 2011 Nickelback album Here and Now.
Bars (a different licensing category in Vancouver) include 19 Below, The Cambie, Chill Winston, Columbia Club, Lamplighter Public House, One Lounge, Revel, The Annex, and The Columbia. Mao Mao Bistro, a former club, has since been replaced by The Greedy Pig. The Town Pump, had been a live music venue since the hippie era of the 1960s. The Blarney Stone one of Vancouver's Irish-style party houses.