Vancouver is on the same latitude as Ireland and suffers nominally the same marine temperate climate. It rains, man, it pours. The city is set on a peninsula against a dramatic backdrop of snow capped peaks.
Vancouver began to form in the 1860s around a sawmill. Nearby, a bar was established, thirsty work after all, by a certain Jack Deighton. Deighton earned the nickname Gassy Jack for his voluble espousal of any worthy cause in the growing city. He died in 1875 and his body lies in an unmarked grave, but there’s a statue to him on Water Street standing atop a beer barrel. The surrounding area is still known as Gastown.
In 1870 the expanding settlement became known as Granville, honouring Granville Leveson Gower, who was the British Secretary of State for the Colonies. It was incorporated as a city in 1886 with the arrival of the trans continental railway, and named Vancouver. This was for George Vancouver who, a century earlier, had explored the coast from Alaska to Oregon with James Cook.
The name Granville persists in one of the city’s main streets. Granville Street has been the centre of the city’s entertainment area for over a century. Theatre Row developed with such major theatres as the Orpheum and Vogue. There were also amusement arcades, pawn stores porn shops and strip joints. Granville Street boasted the world’s largest display of neon signs in the 1950s
While much of Downtown gleams new, Granville Street remains a shabby but seductive slice of fifties Americana. Glorious old film theatres jut into the street which is low-end shopping by day and thronged with rough edged nightlife after dark. And there are bars, bars and more bars. It’s still thirsty work.
It’s ten years back that I visited Vancouver. Granville Street at night is the sort of wonderland I like. Edgy, but never dull. This scene, looking north, features the Orpheum and that neon nirvana for which the area’s famed. Across the road Dublin’s Calling, and I’ve got a thirst that’s raging. Slainte.