UPDATE 2016: This is an important read, “Indigenous activists say the story of Gassy Jack is missing sordid details.”
Captain John “Gassy Jack” Deighton is a local legend and namesake for the area of downtown Vancouver known as Gastown. The Gassy Jack statue is one of the most photographed in Vancouver and is this week’s featured Vancouver Icon.
Saloon proprietor Deighton headed toward the Burrard Inlet by canoe from New Westminster and saw a need that he could fulfill near the mill. In 1867 he told the workers in the harbour that they could have all the whiskey they could drink if they helped him build a saloon. Within 24 hours “The Globe” was up and running.
While there is nothing left of The Globe (or much else of Vancouver from that time period due to The Great Fire) the statue of Gassy Jack stands at Maple Tree Square, where Alexander, Carrall, Water and Powell meet.
“The north edge of Maple Street Square was the location of the original shoreline at high tide during Deighton’s time. Most of the pre-fire wooden buildings on the north side of Maple Tree Square were constructed over the tidal flats on wooden piles.” [source]
Installed in 1970 the statue was commissioned by Larry Killam who was interested in improving business in the Gastown area at the time.
“Vern Simpson made the sculpture following a drawing by Fritz Jacobson. It was given as a Valentine’s Day gift to the City. Then Mayor Tom Campbell threatened to have it hauled away to the city dump. Vandals later decapitated it but the head was returned for a $50 reward.” [source]
People pose with the statue, jump up on it, and have even dressed it up on occasion. Many laugh at the nickname “Gassy” (although it just meant he talked a lot) but his legacy lives on.
Nightlife thrives on Water and Carrall, through dance clubs, public houses, and fine drinking establishments featuring some of the city’s best mixologists.
From his perch atop a barrel at Maple Tree Square, John Deighton has watched his rough and tumble seaside mill town grow and soon celebrate its 125th anniversary.
Read more in the Vancouver Icons series or more about John “Gassy Jack” Deighton.