Take a walk along the historical Steam Line route. This area (as well as all of Vancouver) is on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh. This self-guided walk begins by the steam engine at the Roundhouse, passes through Yaletown and continues along a historic route to end near the Steam Clock in Gastown.
Unceded means that First Nations people did not give up land or legally sign it away to Britain or Canada. Vancouver and 95 percent of BC are on unceded First Nations land. In many parts of Canada, treaties were signed with First Nations that gave incoming settlers rights to much of the land, but in BC very few treaties were signed.
Want to learn more? Read First Peoples: A Guide for Newcomers PDF file (5.4 MB)
|Elevation change||23 m|
As you walk through these two areas that have been transformed since colonization, think about the history of the land beneath your feet. Modern architecture, parks and historic buildings line the streets of this walk from hip and trendy Yaletown to the historic waterfront community of Gastown. This walk goes between two significant bodies of water, and was likely a route that many Indigenous people who lived here since time immemorial have followed to gather food, medicines, and commute.
This route follows city streets and sidewalks equipt with curb ramps. This walk is wheelchair accessible.
Points of interest
- North False Creek
- Mainland and Hamilton Street
- Yaletown Park
- Hamilton Street
- Off the path
- Victory Square
- Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971
- Sea to Sky
- Time Immemorial
North False Creek
Street Light - Bernie Miller and Alan Tregebobv
Six 12-metre high bronze I-beam towers each hold up an image from the colonial history of the area cut into a metal plate. The plates cast the shadow of the image onto the street. Texts etched in the limestone bases refer to the events relevant to the site since being colonized.
The positioning of the panels has been carefully calculated so that their optimum contrast and focus on the street is the month, date, and time that the event occurred. For example, if the sun is shining just before noon on June 17, the projected image of Vancouver's "Great Fire" will be visible on the promenade below.
Engine No. 374 is the Steam Line Historic Walking Route’s southern signature. The engine is a lasting symbol of the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and is a designated heritage monument. It is on display at the 374 Pavilion; attached to the Roundhouse Community Centre.
Mainland and Hamilton Street
Mainland and Hamilton Streets
These streets comprise the core of Yaletown, an eight-block district laid out by the CPR in the 1900s. Yaletown is characterized by high loading platforms intended for easy on and offloading of cargo from freight trains. The overhead awnings provided weather protection.
The first City Plan in the late 1920s saw Yaletown as the suburbs of Vancouver with Gastown’s Victory Square as the town center. Yaletown was zoned as a residential area with designation for some commercial and light industrial uses. By the 1950’s, the area was overrun by factories and shops.
A pedestrian city
Vancouver has a highly pedestrian core with many passages that appear to be private, but are actually pedestrian through-routes. Go through Yaletown Park and follow Mainland Street or continue up the stairs. The stairs lead through a courtyard onto Smithe St. Turn right, and rejoin the main route where Mainland St. becomes Hamilton St.
The Main Post Office
Built in 1956 at a cost of $13 million, it was the largest welded steel structure in the world when it opened. A giant, five-storey machine covering an entire city block, it was connected to the CPR station by a conveyor-equipped tunnel, but as transport by truck and air grew the tunnel was obsolete by 1965.
Off the path
Nine terracotta art-nouveau caryatids adorn the top level of the Sun Tower. They were sculpted by Charles Marega and were initially controversial due to their semi-nude composure.
The Flack Block
Designed by William Blackmore in a revival Romanesque style, it was built in 1898 by prospector Thomas Flack, after he struck it rich during the Klondike Gold Rush. Using vintage photographs, Tony Rogac restored its magnificent entrance archway.
Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971
Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971
Artist: Stan Douglas
Location: 111 West Hastings Street, Woodward's Heritage Building
The photo depicts an actual violent confrontation between police and the city's counterculture. In what came to be known as the Gastown Riot, uniformed and undercover police officers attacked a peaceful "smoke-in" protest organized to oppose what was regarded as police harassment of the counterculture. The riot, also known as the Battle of Maple Tree Square, ultimately led to the city zoning the area as strictly commercial. The funding for this photo was provided by the developers of this building, and the photo cost roughly $1.5 million dollars.
Read about the Gastown Riot External website, opens in new tab
Sea to Sky
Sea to Sky
Artist: Kelly Cannell
Location: 650 Queen Elizabeth Theatre, at the parking structure on the corner of West Georgia and Hamilton Street.
This project represents all of what Canada has to offer in terms of natural landscapes, abounding wildlife and rich cultural diversity. Located on traditional Coast Salish territory, the artwork represents a land where our ancestors lived and gained their livelihoods. The imagery shows Vancouver's surroundings in the heart of the city, while acknowledging the four directions—north, east, south, and west.
Learn more about Musqueam artist Kelly Cannell External website, opens in new tab
Artist: Ryan McKenna
Location: 350 West Georgia Street, interior atrium of Vancouver Public Library (Central Branch)
The banners focus on the multi-faceted identity of Vancouver's First Nations. They display the people through images that characterize Indigenous values such as knowledge, tradition, and family. They also serve as social commentary for the present position of Indigenous people living in an urban landscape. All of the models for these drawings live in the city of Vancouver. They represent people from nations within and around Vancouver such as the Bella Coola, Musqueam, Haida, Squamish, and Lillooet nations.