With its highrises, busy port and bustling economy, Vancouver is still a place where health and wealth is attainable.

That was the same dream the first 1,000 settlers of the city had in the 1850s when they began carving out a living along Burrard Inlet.

More than 125 years ago, the streets of Gastown -- the city's oldest neighbourhood -- was little more than a speck of settlement on a blanket of forest and sea.

Historian John Atkin says among the first European settlers in Vancouver were many Americans. Some 25,000 of them flooded into B.C. when gold was discovered along the Fraser River.

Some Yankee stragglers stayed on, living along-side First Nations neighbours.

"One of the reasons British Columbia joins the Canadian confederation back east is concern that there was more Americans quote unquote than Canadians quote unquote," Atkin said.

By 1867 the Hastings Sawmill opened, beside what became the Granville Townsite three years later. It was then that Vancouver's first major industry was born.

Atkins calls early Vancouver forestry a lumberman's dream, with pristine Coastal Douglas Firs reaching as high as 350 feet tall.

"One thousand year-old close-grained Douglas Fir. One tree was measured 22-feet across at its trunk," he said.

Also in 1867, a retired riverboat captain named John Deighton paddled into Burrard Inlet with a boatload of supplies, including a barrel of whiskey. He instantly became Granville's social convener.

Deighton, nicknamed "Gassy Jack" because of his brassy talkative tone, offered up his whiskey in this dry, gambling-free place, with one catch: as long as the millworkers would build him a bar.

"I got booze, you've got lumber. They ‘borrowed' quote unquote some lumber," Atkin said. "Two days later they had a crude saloon and that's where Vancouver comes from."

The Globe Saloon at Water and Carrall streets in what soon was named 'Gassy's Town' was joined by other businesses like the Hastings Mill Store -- think of it as the new town's 7-11.

By 1870, people began moving in from China, Japan, Hawaii, India and Sweden.

"Those first men on the schooners were Swedes. They controlled the lumber trade and many of those guys jumped ship and stayed here. So we were a multicultural town right from day one," Atkin said.

The official day one was the city's incorporation on April 6, 1886. City hall was just a tent, but it didn't stop then Mayor Malcolm McLean from showing great foresight.

McLean's first order of business was petitioning the federal government for 1,000 acres of land to create Stanley Park.

Atkin said many men were looking far into the future in efforts to make the town into something special.

"They were looking 50, 70 and 100 years out and intuitively understood this was going to be a great metropolis," he said.

By the time the last spike was driven, the Canadian Pacific Railway had made Vancouver its western terminus and gave the place its name.

By 1900, the population doubled in 10 years to 20,000. The new city was on its way to a glorious future, although there were turbulent times ahead.

There are currently 2.3 million people living in Metro Vancouver.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger