INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT GASTOWN STEAM CLOCK
Not far from Vancouver’s waterfront, in the historic Gastown neighbourhood, stands one of the city’s major crowd-drawer, a steam-powered clock. The 16foot-tall clock displays the time on four faces, and every quarter hour it plays the Westminster chimes on four whistles with steam shooting out of the top just like in a locomotive.
Despite its antique look and archaic technology, the Gastown Steam Clock is of a much younger generation. It was built in 1977 by the renowned Canadian clockmaker Raymond Saunders as part of a rejuvenation of the Gastown area.
Back in the 1960s, many North American cities such New York, Toronto and Seattle had freeways running right through town or along their waterfronts. Vancouver didn’t have any, and the municipal government wanted to fix that by constructing a giant freeway linking the Trans-Canada Highway with the Lions Gate Bridge, bulldozing its way through the historic and marginalised, neighbourhoods of Strathcona, Chinatown and Gastown. The communities that lay in the path of the proposed freeway protested and the plans for Vancouver's inner-city freeway were shelved. Efforts, instead, were turned towards refurbishing the historic buildings that had fallen into disrepair.
By 1977, the regeneration of Gastown was largely complete, but it still didn’t have a focal point, something to draw people in. So, local merchants and property owners banded together and raised money for Saunders to build the antique-looking clock. The steam theme was chosen as a reference to the industrial past of the area, where steam pipes once ran underground powering machinery. The Gastown Steam Clock became only the second steam-powered clock ever constructed.
The world’s first steam clock was built by an Englishman named John Inshaw in 1859.