A New Year’s Day Walk in Vancouver, Chinatown to Gastown

January 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

While some people like to start their New Year with a polar bear swim or watching sports, I always try to get out for a nice, long walk. It doesn’t happen every year. Sometimes there’s an event or dinner to attend. Sometimes, the weather is so bad that I dare not venture outside. Sometimes, depending on what went on the night before, I may not be able to move. When I woke up on January 1st of this year to a sunny morning, I set my mind on going for a walk. However, by the time I finally got out of bed and was ready, it was afternoon and the clouds were rolling in. It was also very chilly, but I bundled up, grabbed my camera, and headed outside. Vancouver has the third-largest Chinatown in North America, and it’s where I began my New Year’s Day walk.

This is the Millennium Gate on Pender Street at Taylor Street. It was officially opened on August 1, 2002 as a symbol to remember the importance of the contributions of the Chinese community to the history of Vancouver and British Columbia. This is facing northwest on Pender Street.

Chinatown Millennium Gate, Chinatown, Vancouver, Pender Street


 The gate is very detailed with both Eastern and Western symbols.

Chinatown Millennium Gate, Chinese characters, Chinatown, Vancouver., Pender Street


Lions guard either side of the gate as we face Chinatown. My journey on this day took me in the opposite direction. One day, I’ll feature Chinatown in a blog post.

Millennium Gate facing Chinatown, Chinatown, Vancouver, pender street


First, I walked a half-block past the gate into Chinatown and stopped at one of the most interesting buildings in Vancouver. The Sam Kee Building was built in 1913 and is an amazing 58 inches wide on the ground floor. It has been mentioned by the Guinness Book of World Records and featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as the shallowest building in the world. Originally, this was a standard sized lot but the city expropriated all but six feet when Pender Street was widened. The owner, Chang Toy, had architects design a building anyway, and named it The Sam Kee building, after his company. There have been numerous tenants over the years and in the early days, a popular bathhouse was located on the basement level. Jack Chow Insurance bought the building in the 1980s and has spent a considerable amount of money refurbishing it.

Jack Chow Insurance, Chinatown, Vancouver, Pender street


Sam Kee Building, Chinatown, Vancouver, Pender Street


I continued walking northwest along Pender Street for two blocks to one of the most historic landmarks in Vancouver, The Sun Tower. When it was completed in 1912, The Sun Tower was the tallest building in the British Empire at 17 storeys. It was formally known as The World Building and originally housed the now defunct newspaper, The Vancouver World. The current newspaper, The Vancouver Sun, bought the building in 1937, and although it has long since relocated, the name hasn’t changed.

Sun Tower, Vancouver,  Pender Street, historic


W.T. Whiteway designed the building in the architectural style known as Beaux-Arts. Many of the great buildings in France have this style. The detailed dome can be seen from many parts of the city, and is actually steel in a copper cladding look.

Sun Tower Dome, Vancouver,  Pender Street, historic


On the exterior, there are nine nude muses, the goddesses for creativity in arts, literature, and science. In fact, The Sun Tower’s website has the slogan, “This is not office space. This is creative space.”

Muses Sun Tower, Vancouver, Canada,  stone,


I continued for another block up Pender Street and walked into Victory Square. It was here that I watched the Remembrance Day ceremony that occurs on November 11 in Canada. It was my first time witnessing the touching ceremony live at Victory Square. This was my view on that day.

Remembrance Day, Victory Square, Vancouver,  people, we remember
Here are two historic landmarks of Vancouver: The Cenotaph and The Dominion Building. Also in the Beaux-Arts style of architecture, The Dominion Building was completed in 1909 and was Vancouver’s first skyscraper. At that time, it was the tallest building in the British Empire at 13 storeys. That distinction didn’t last for long as the aforementioned The World Building took that title just a couple of years later.

blue sky, historic building, remembrance Day, Hastings Street, Gastown


Built during boom times prior to World War I, the design of The Dominion Building was quite advanced for its time. It was built with steel girders and concrete, as opposed to stone that was predominantly used. It was also noted to be very elegant inside. Today, The Dominion Building is used as office space by various tenants.

Dominion Building Close up, Vancouver, historic, metal


In Victory Square, across Hastings Street from the Dominion Building, is the Cenotaph. It was unveiled in 1924 by Vancouver mayor, W.R. Owen. Considering the wreaths had been placed here almost two months earlier, they looked in very good shape. I placed my poppy on a wreath dedicated to the memory of Billy Bishop, Canada’s World War I flying ace. On the right is Harbour Center, now a campus for Simon Fraser University, and a tenant for offices and retailers. A revolving restaurant and a lookout are at the top.

Cenotaph, , Vancouver,  New Year's Day blue sky, wreaths, flags


I then walked down Cambie Street into Gastown, another historic site and Vancouver’s first downtown. During the 1970s, Gastown was revitalized with a major effort to preserve the historic buildings. Although it’s not old, probably the most famous landmark of Gastown is this steam clock, unveiled in 1977. Every 15 minutes, it erupts with a cloud of steam, much to the delight of tourists.

Gastown Steam Clock, Vancouver,  steam, trees

Gastown Steam Clock Close, Vancouver,  steam, trees

I hope you enjoyed this post as I will strive to blog more about my home province of British Columbia. Maybe, I should make that a resolution for 2013. When I resume my posts from my New Year’s Day walk, I’ll head from Gastown, past Canada Place, and the Vancouver Convention Center towards Stanley Park. Please join me.

If you have my book, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, or have ordered it, I really appreciate your support. It’s also out on Kindle and Kobo. My Goodreads and Amazon pages have reviews and more information. Please share this post, and thanks for your time.

About Randall St. Germain

Randall St. Germain, author of Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, is a middle-aged Canadian Boy who is passionate about nature, photography, hiking, music, and self-improvement. After the death of his mother, he chose to walk the famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, across the north of Spain, despite knowing little about it. He certainly didn’t plan to write a book until the latter days of his Camino. Similar to walking the Camino, writing and publishing a book was a learning experience. It was also very rewarding, and part of his ongoing journey. Please join him as he takes you along on his journey in Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, and on his blog Camino My Way.


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