Posts Tagged ‘Gassy Jack’

Vancouver Sun: From commercial hub to heart of the Downtown Eastside

November 20th, 2008
Gassy Jack and The Alhambra Building at what used to be the city's main focus.

Gassy Jack sits in front of The Alhambra Building at Carral and Water Street.

From commercial hub to heart of the Downtown Eastside
Home to some of Vancouver’s coolest bars, a stone’s throw away are junkies, crackheads

by John Mackie
Vancouver Sun
November 18, 2008

Carrall is one of the shortest streets in Vancouver, but it’s also one of the most important. It was the first street surveyed for the Granville townsite in 1870, the place where Gassy Jack Deighton built his infamous saloon. For much of Vancouver’s history it was a commercial hub, the connection between Gastown, the Hastings Street shopping area and Chinatown.

But today Carrall is the heart of the troubled Downtown Eastside, a street of extremes. It’s home to some of Vancouver’s coolest bars and restaurants, but a stone’s throw from the trendies you’ll find junkies and crackheads huddled around doorways like extras from Night of the Living Dead.

Things may be changing. Several buildings on or near Carrall are being restored, and the city is going full speed ahead on a Carrall street “greenway” that will link Gastown to False Creek. If everything works out, Carrall might be the centrepiece of the revitalization of the city’s historic core.

Then again, it might not. The Downtown Eastside’s problems have deep historical roots that have resisted revitalization schemes before.

Long before Europeans arrived to lay the foundations for Vancouver, the area around Carrall street was well known to local natives.

“Carrall Street was a tidal mud flat-y area,” said heritage expert John Atkin.

“At high tide, it almost connected over to Burrard Inlet. It was used as a portage route for natives. Early settlers could also get their rowboats from Burrard Inlet over to False Creek and back again.”

The area was so wet that when the streets were laid out, the sidewalks were raised.

“Hastings and Carrall are much higher than they would have been in the natural landscape,” says Atkin.

“The sidewalks for Carrall street are actually eight feet above the ground level.”

Carrall was the first street laid out in the survey for the Granville townsite.

“It was up against the Hastings Mills timber lease boundary,” Atkin said.

“That’s why the Granville townsite started there. Then he surveyed six blocks from Carrall street. He laid out Water Street parallel to the waterfront, over to Abbott and Cambie, then he surveyed Cordova and Hastings. That gave you six blocks. Carrall Street became the zero point in the street numbering system for east and west.”

Gassy Jack’s saloon stood at the southwest corner of Carrall and Water. It was made out of wood, and burned down in the Great Fire of June 13, 1886. The brick Byrnes Block/Alhambra Hotel quickly sprang up in its place, and may be the oldest building in the city on its original site.

The Alhambra now anchors the most historic block in the city, which includes the Ferguson Block (1886-7), the Abrams Block (possibly 1887), the Bodega Hotel (1887), the Tremont Hotel (1887), the Town and Robinson Block (1890), and the Boulder Hotel (1890).