Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood — Gastown —has been designated a national historic site, the federal government announced yesterday.

Jim Prentice, minister of environment and parks, said the designation recognizes the neighbourhood’s role in shaping the economy and development of Western Canada.

“The remarkable collection of architecturally significant buildings is an exceptional and early example of an urban historic district created by civic involvement in the heritage conservation movement,” Prentice said.

Many of the buildings in Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood date from 1886 to 1914.

“Through this designation, future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy (those buildings) as part of Vancouver’s urban landscape and an integral part of the city’s vibrant tourism industry,” said Stockwell Day.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said it’s “gratifying” to see the government is recognizing the preservation and revitalization work that’s been done in Gastown recently.

“Gastown is the birthplace of Vancouver, and our citizens have been instrumental in ensuring that it could be preserved for future generations to enjoy,” he said.

The campaign to protect Gastown as a heritage area began in the 1960s when citizens caught wind of plans to demolish Gastown and nearby Chinatown and Strathcona to build a freeway into the downtown.
The province axed the highway plan and declared Gastown a historical site in 1971.