Gastown’s Jewel – The Gastown Steam Clock

Gastown is one of Vancouver’s popular and iconic areas to visit. It was named a National Historic Site of Canada in 2009. The main reason for this is that it was the first neighbourhood in Vancouver where a Yorkshire steamboat captain named “Gassy” Jack Deighton arrived in 1867 to open the area’s first saloon. Therefore, it is named “Gastown” as it was originally coined “Gassy’s Town”, then evolved into the current name.

Gastown is an area full of tourist attractions, shops, stores, restaurants, and nightclubs. There are also many important artifacts, monuments, and features within the area. From the cobblestone roads to the brick buildings, the area is rich in history. Perhaps one of the most historic artifacts within the town is the famous Steam Clock.

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Built in 1977 by Raymond Saunders and Doug Smith, the clock was originally built as a monument for local merchants as well as to keep local homeless people from sleeping on the warm steam grate it was built on during the cold weather.

The steam grate it is placed on is connected to the underground steam system which leads to the generating plant at Georgia and Beatty. This system not only provides heat to the downtown population but also provides the steam that makes that old clock sing.

The two-ton clock is one of six other working “steam” clocks in the world making this a must visit attraction. Every quarter-hour, the clock will shoot steam and whistle in its version of the Westminster Chime for all to hear. At the top of each hour, the clock will signal the time with a toot of steam from each whistle.

The iconic Steam Clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street may be old but it is still in good condition thanks to the many local businesses, builders, and Horologist Raymond Saunders that keep it in top shape.

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