- Current Exhibitions
- Plan a Visit
- Exhibit Proposals
- Past Exhibits
Tunstall Bay’s varied history begins as an industrial site. In the late 1880s, Vancouver area sawmills were buying up large stands of timber. Bowen Island was close by and its terrain wasn’t as steep as at other potential locations. From 1884 onward, mill purchases were frequent – 136 acres here and 220 acres there. Most impressive was the 850 acres purchased by Joseph Mannion in 1885. After a year he sold to the first of the many lumber companies who logged the area for the next twenty years. By 1909 the virgin forest was pretty well depleted so the current owner, the Joseph Chew Lumber and Shingle Manufacturing Company leapt at the chance to sell to Western Explosives Ltd. (a Montreal based company).
On Bowen, the company’s manufacturing facilities included a dynamite plant, a black powder plant, and a magazine farther down the shore, connected with the plants by a little railroad. There was an office and a store, dwellings for plant personnel and workers with families, two bunkhouses and special quarters for the Chinese and Japanese workers. The company sales manager, George Tunstall, was also vice president of the company. The first explosion came in August, a few months after operations began; five workers died. In December, an explosion in the dynamite packing house killed another. In March of 1910 a packing house explosion killed five more workers. In 1911, Canadian Explosives bought out the earlier company. In 1913 the new company decided to consolidate all its BC plants in one location on James Island. During the war years the Tunstall Bay facility was moved by scow – men, equipment, and buildings. The company was absorbed by Canadian Industries Ltd who put the property on the market where the price went as low as $16,000.
Vancouver contractor George Adams and his family enjoyed summer holidays at the Bowen resort. One day the family decided to take an unusually long walk over to the Tunstall Bay area. Adams was so impressed with the property that he bought it and the family moved to their Bowen home in 1939. As the years passed, the area was much sub-divided. In 1943, a 100-acre section went to a group of Vancouver friends for what became The Holdings. Another 100 acres were sold to the Wonder family and so it went. During those years too, the Adams property was leased as the location for Camp Gates, a weeklong summer camp enjoyed by hundreds of Vancouver Sun newspaper carriers. It lasted the better part of twenty years.
At some point Sun publisher Don Cromie bought 227 acres and in 1968, when he lost control of the publishing business, he formed a land development company called DeeCee Projects Ltd. His plans meant the closure of the Sun Camp. Cromie planned to create residential, condominium and commercial services on 450 lots. In 1969 and 1970 his first step was creating 130 parcels with sixty to eighty foot frontages. He planned underground wiring, an electrical and water distribution system, a clubhouse and a swimming pool. Lot prices ranged from $5,000 to $12,000. The first residents were Norm and Gerry Bazeley and Fred and Georgie Hull. The Cromies maintained a home and guesthouse near their wharf.
Eventually Cromie wanted Beach Club members to assume ownership of this property: the name was changed to the Tunstall Bay Community Association. Residents enjoyed boating, fishing,derbies, volleyball games, dances, parties and much more. Club membership came with property ownership. Don and Geri were granted lifetime memberships. DeeCee Projects closed about 1989. Don died in 1993 and Geri in 1995. Their family scattered their ashes on the waters of Tunstall Bay.