Vision 2012: Bamberton then

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You may not be familiar with the full history of Bamberton, but you're undoubtedly familiar with some of the B.C. icons its produced.

The Lions Gate Bridge. The George Massey Tunnel. The Peace River dam.

They were all made from Bamberton cement.

"They just poured cement out of that plant and literally built B.C. — and most people have no idea," said Maureen Alexander, manager of the Bamberton Historical Society.

She hopes that'll change with this year's 100th anniversary of the historic Bamberton cement plant, which was started by H.K.G. Bamber's company, England's Portland Cement Construction Company, in 1912.

"He came out in 1911, researched lime stone deposits and found the limestone that (Robert Pim) Butchart was using across the inlet (at the B.C. Cement Company) came under the water and up onto this side, so he bought the land and built the plant," Alexander said.

Bamber brought several of his top-level executives from England to work at the site, and those executives brought their families, prompting the construction of Bamberton village's first six homes.

Bamber and Butchart, meanwhile, were competitors until they merged their companies in 1919.

"It was a 50/50 split, but a lot of people think Butchart moved over to Bamberton and took over the company, and that's not the case," Alexander said.

After that, and until 1956, Bamberton was the only cement-producing company in Western Canada, and one of only three of that size in Canada.

Meanwhile, the village had expanded into a small town with homes, a school and even a community centre.

"They had a dance floor that was bigger than the one at the Empress Hotel," Alexander said.

Competition from LaFarge's mainland cement plant, and other factors, led to the plant's closure in 1980, but it remained a cement distribution centre and left a historic legacy for Cowichan.

Tours of the heritage site continue on Sundays to this day.

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