The Town of Lunenburg's waterfront visage is, without doubt, one of the most photographed views in Atlantic Canada.
Lunenburg (2006 population: 2,317), is a Canadian port town in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.
Situated on the province's South Shore, Lunenburg is located on a peninsula at the western side of Mahone Bay. The town is approximately 90 kilometres southwest of the county boundary with the Halifax Regional Municipality.
World Heritage Site
The historic town was designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 1995. This designation ensures protection for much of Lunenburg's unique architecture and civic design, being the best example of planned British colonial settlement in North America.
Old Town Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. Established in 1753, it has retained its original layout and overall appearance, based on a rectangular grid pattern drawn up in the home country. The inhabitants have safeguarded the town’s identity throughout the centuries by preserving the wooden architecture of the houses and public buildings, some of which date from the 18th century and which constitute an excellent example of a sustained vernacular architectural tradition. Its economic basis has traditionally been the offshore Atlantic fishery, the future of which is highly questionable at the present time.
- Old Town Lunenburg is a well preserved example of 18th century British colonial urban planning, which has undergone no significant changes since its foundation and which largely continues to fulfil the economic and social purposes for which it was designed. Of special importance is its diversified and well-preserved vernacular architectural tradition, which spans over 250 years.
- It is an excellent example of an urban community and culture designed for and based on the offshore Atlantic fishery which is undergoing irreversible change and is evolving in a form that cannot yet be fully defined.
Fisheries Museum of the AtlanticThe Museum is huge, with floating vessels at the wharves, an extensive aquarium and a large exhibit complex. From mid-May to mid-October, each day is filled with an assortment of activities, which can include a thrilling launch of a model schooner to guided tours to learning how to hook mats or spin wool.
The Museum is as much about the stories that people share, as it is about artifacts and exhibits. Heritage Interpreters, including retired fishermen and captains, generously share their experiences with visitors. The schooner Theresa E. Connor and trawler Cape Sable come alive when visitors have a yarn with the Old Salts.
The Museum offers something for everyone, whether you’re interested in local crafts and culture, boats or history. A children’s play area, an aquarium with enchanting glimpses of fish from the deep, hands-on activities and an air-conditioned theatre; round out an extensive selection of exhibits.
St. John's Anglican ChurchWhen nearly 1500 German and French-speaking "Foreign Protestants" were first landed by the British as settlers on the hillside which is now Lunenburg in June 1753, they had too much to do in building their first winter homes and fortifications for the town to attend to the building of a church.
The first year all services were held in the open air on the green where the present church stands. The congregation was mainly German and Lutheran. A minister had arrived with the settlers, a missionary sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the Rev. Jean Baptiste Moreau.
The minister was French, and knew little German. He had previously been a Catholic priest and prior of the ancient Abbey of St. Mathieu, near Brest.
The building of the church began the following year, with a grant of £ 476 from the authorities, the Lords of Trade & Plantations.
The first church took a few years to complete, and for the first 60 years it had no pews or heating. It was built in the style of a New England meeting house with a gallery on three sides.
There were squared windows upstairs and downstairs just like a Georgian house. It had a huge three-decker pulpit towering up to the gallery, directly in front of the altar, and a round conical tower like many in Germany.
Lunenburg Opera House
The Lunenburg Opera House is a significant landmark located within the boundaries of the UNESCO World Heritage Town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Conforming to the town’s architectural traditions, modeled after European music halls, the opera house was built from local timbers in 1907/1908 by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Experienced contractor Solomon Morash led the original project and during the months of construction, there was great anticipation throughout the province. The local newspapers foresaw “one of finest opera halls in the province.” (Progressive Enterprise, 11/20/1907)
The ingenuity of Lunenburg’s fine shipbuilders and craftsmen (who built the opera house) is evidenced by the unique architectural features that enhance both the acoustics and aesthetics of the building. The floor joists are laminate beams that have been steamed and made to curve in a semicircle facing the direction of the stage, giving support to the auditorium seating and enhancing the acoustics of the theatre. The joists actually mimic the unseen ribbing and framework that one might find beneath the facade of a guitar or violin or inside the hull of a wooden ship. The exterior is simple but majestic, a testament to the sensibilities of the South Shore people.
The Lunenburg Opera House was originally used as a venue for vaudeville, music and other touring productions. In the 1940s, following the trend of the times, the opera house was converted into a movie house and was renamed the Capitol Theatre. In the 1970s the building was purchased privately and in the years to follow, the opera house was intermittently used as a performing arts venue. The 1990s and Early 2000s saw little activity, with the building sitting mostly vacant, subtract the uppermost floor being used as a music recording studio. Many local and travelling bands recorded under James Shaw of Redfish Audio in the Lunenburg Opera House until the company moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Full restoration of the Lunenburg Opera House began in earnest in 2006 and will continue for the next couple of years.
The first school in Lunenburg was situated where the Old Fire Hall now stands. When the first Academy was constructed, the first school was purchased by the Anglican Church for the princely sum of $85 and was to be used as a Parish Hall.
The first Lunenburg Academy was built in 1864 on what is now know as Jubilee Square. To signal its opening a royal salute was fired from Blockhouse Hill.
In 1883 for the sum of $500, a school was constructed on Tannery Road to serve the needs of the younger pupils of Newtown. Today this building houses the Industrial Arts and Home Economics Departments of the school program.
On September 23, 1893, just before the noon session, fire completely destroyed the first Academy, but because of the prompt action of Principal Burgess McKittrick and his teachers in clearing the school of pupils, there were no injuries.
The second Lunenburg Academy, the third school, was built in 1894 - 95 on the Gallows Hill. This site was chosen following an acrimonious debate in the Town Council which resulted in a tie vote which was broken by the Mayor casting the deciding vote.
H.H. Mott of Saint John, N.B., designed the building which was constructed by the Oxford Furniture Co. and the school was opened on November 7, 1895. It has always been regarded as a masterpiece of architecture and those responsible for its planning and construction deserve the highest praise.
The Education Review of February 1896 described the structure as follows:
"The new school building is of wood, two storeys high, with a mansard roof and occupies one of the finest and most commanding sites in the Province, being visible for many miles around. The ground floor contains six large classrooms with separate cloakrooms for boys and girls. The second floor contains six classrooms, cloakrooms, laboratory and library. There is a large Assembly Hall capable of seating over four hundred. The ceilings throughout are of white wood and beautifully panelled. The floors and wainscotting are of birch, while the rest of the interior is furnished in ash and birch, giving to the whole a substantial and neat appearance. There are six entrances affording a complete separation of boys and girls except in the classroom. Four towers adorn the building, in one of which a large bell, weighing over six hundred pounds, has been placed. The principal's department is on the second floor and is connected with each classroom by electric bells. It is seated with single desks. The blackboards are of slate. On one side of the room opens the laboratory, on the other, the library."
Every flat is fitted with a large gong, attached to the ceiling which is controlled from the Principal's department. Speaking tubes connect each floor with the basement.
The Smead-Dowd heating, ventilating and sanitary system has been adopted and gives excellent satisfaction. The basement contains six furnaces, which are supplied with fresh air from outside, thus giving each room a constant supply of pure warm air.
The laboratory is well supplied with chemical and physical apparatus. A geological collection of about one hundred Canadian specimens has recently been added.
Altogether the new Academy is one of the finest school buildings in the Maritime Provinces. It is thoroughly modern in style and finish and is admirable adapted for education work.
This remarkable building, an architectural masterpiece, is a landmark in the Town of Lunenburg. The unusual architectural style enhanced by an abundance of decorative Victorian designs, sometimes referred to by the term "Gingerbread", creates a unique structure greatly admired by visitors to the Town of Lunenburg.
The Academy, owned by the Town, housed grades one through twelve until 1965 when a new high school was built. Today, it continues as an elementary school (P - 5) with an enrollment of 165 students.
Through the efforts of the Lunenburg Academy Foundation, the Lunenburg Academy, on March 20, 1984, received the official designation of a Provincial Heritage Property. Also, on March 6, 1984, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada approved the Academy as a site of both nations and architectural significance.
Tourism is now Lunenburg's most important industry and many thousands visit the town each year. A number of restaurants, inns, hotels and shops exist to service the tourist trade including the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic.
The town has a history of being an important seaport and shipbuilding centre. There are now numerous small businesses, high-tech industries including Composites Atlantic and HB Studios, and trade plants including High Liner Foods, which was at one point the largest fish plant in Canada. This plant now handles manufacturing and most fishing is done offshore.
Lunenburg is featured prominently in a 2010 series of Cisco network product ads starring Ellen Page.
For over a hundred years, Lunenburg was an Acadian/ Mi’kmaq village named Mirligueche. It was established under the command of Isaac de Razilly in the first half of the seventeenth century. Upon arriving in Halifax (1749), Governor Edward Cornwallis sent troops to Mirligueche (i.e., Lunenburg) and had the village destroyed.
Three years after the original settlement was destroyed, lead by John Creighton (judge), the British sent Foreign Protestants to settle the area and renamed it Lunenburg (1753). The original inhabitants of Lunenburg (mostly Germans from the southern Rhineland, Swiss and French Protestants from Montbeliard) came during the same wave of immigration that produced the Pennsylvania Dutch. They were "Foreign Protestants" encouraged by the British to settle in the area.
The Hoffman Insurrection
In mid December 1753, within six months of their arrival at Lunenburg, the new settlers rebelled against their living conditions. The rebellion became known as "The Hoffman Insurrection." The Rebellion was led by John Hoffman, one of the Captains which had established the settlers in the town.
Hoffman lead a mob which eventually locked up in one of the blockhouses a number of Commander Patrick Sutherland’s troops and the Justice of the Peace. Commander Patrick Sutherland at Lunenburg asked for reinforcements from Halifax and Monckton was sent with troops. Monckton arrested Hoffman and brought him to Halifax where he was fined and imprisoned on Georges Island (Nova Scotia) for two years.
Because of the living conditions, a number of the French and German-speaking Foreign Protestants left the village to join the Acadian communities.
French and Indian War
During the French and Indian War (1754–1763), the town was protected by several small blockhouses that were garrisoned by British regulars as well as by provincial troops from Massachusetts. These forts were erected to protect the town from raids by French warships and from attacks by Acadians and Indians. During the Expulsion of the Acadians (1755), the British sent the Acadian cattle at Grand Pre to Lunenburg to support the British settlement that was established with Foreign Protestants.
Raid on Lunenburg (1756)
Indians (Maliseet) attacked in the Raid on Lunenburg (1756), in which twenty settlers were killed. Despite the protection of increased number of blockhouses built on the peninsula, eight more Indian / Acadian raids happened against those on the Lunenburg Peninsula over the next three years. A total of 32 people from Lunenburg were killed in the raids with more being taken prisoner. The British reported that most of these raids were by the Mi'kmaq and Acadians at Cape Sable Island.
During the American Revolution, the American Privateers engaged in the Raid of Lunenburg (1775) and the Raid on Lunenburg (1782) and on both occasions devastated the town. In the raid of 1775, the 84th Regiment of Foot (Royal Highland Emigrants) had been defending Nova Scotia, attacking the American privateer ship off of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, as the privateers were looting the town. The privateers were then taken to Halifax.
Lunenburg has long history of building woodenships. The most famous is the world famous schooner Bluenose and her daughter Bluenose II which remains an important tourist attraction in the town, her home port.