Maple Tree Square 2

We looked at Maple Tree Square as it appeared just before the 1886 fire in an earlier post. We’ve examined pretty much all the buildings in this shot over the years. Just on the left hand edge is the Alhambra Hotel, and on the right is the Packing House; offices today, but once the Swift Meat Packing facility (and before that the site of the Alexandra Hotel). Further up the Malkin Warehouse is a six storey brick warehouse with huge old growth timbers forming the frame, and today hidden by street trees in the summer.

One notable difference is that in 1970 the newly installed statue of Gassy Jack used to look along Water Street. Now he’s moved across the street, in front of the Alhambra, looking eastwards. There was a commemoration of Maple Tree Square as the founding location of the settlement here – originally called Granville, and then Vancouver after 1886. It was a drinking fountain, installed in 1925 in what was still an industrial street. The attempts to revitalize the run down neighbourhood in the late 1960s, once the decision had been taken not to bulldoze the entire street for a freeway, included the commission of the sculpture by real estate developer Larry Killam. Fritz Jacobson made a sketch, and Okanagan-born artist Vern Simpson sculpted it. It was presented to the City, although mayor Tom Campbell apparently wanted it towed to the City dump. The 1925 plaque from the fountain is now incorporated into the plinth the statue sits on.

Jack Deighton was a sea captain, gold prospector, riverboat pilot and bar owner, originally from Hull, in England, who squatted in a clearing just beyond the Hastings Mill boundary and built the first non-native structure in the area that would become a town, and then a city (although he died many years before that came about). Fond of talking, ‘Gassy’ Jack was the basis for Granville being known locally as Gastown. The first government survey of Granville was careful to ensure his his original saloon ended up in the middle of the street, forcing Jack to acquire a legal plot nearby to rebuild his Globe Saloon, where the Alhambra would be built after the 1886 fire. More recently ‘Gassy’ Jack has been covered in paint; a protest about celebrating someone who married his second Indian wife when she was about 12 years old. It’s possible he may move again, perhaps away from Maple Tree Square.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-770

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Posted 16 November 2020 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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