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Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Lunenburg is a port town on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. Founded in 1753, the town was one of the first British attempts to settle Protestants in Nova Scotia intended to displace Mi'kmaqs and Acadians.

Aerial photo of Lunenburg
Aerial photo of Lunenburg
Official seal of Lunenburg
Lunenburg is located in Nova Scotia
Location of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Coordinates: 44°23′N 64°19′W / 44.383°N 64.317°W / 44.383; -64.317Coordinates: 44°23′N 64°19′W / 44.383°N 64.317°W / 44.383; -64.317
Country Canada
Province Nova Scotia
IncorporatedOctober 31, 1888
Electoral Districts     

South Shore—St. Margarets
 • BodyLunenburg Town Council
 • MayorRachel Bailey
 • MLASuzanne Lohnes-Croft (L)
 • MPBernadette Jordan (L)
 • Land4.04 km2 (1.56 sq mi)
 • Total2,263
Time zoneUTC−4 (AST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−3 (ADT)
Postal code
Area code(s)902 & 782
Highways Trunk 3
Route 332
Route 334
WebsiteTown of Lunenburg
Official nameOld Town Lunenburg
Criteriaiv, v
Designated1995 (19th session)
Reference no.741
State Party Canada
RegionEurope and North America
Official nameOld Town Lunenburg Historic District National Historic Site of Canada
TypeHeritage Conservation District

The economy was traditionally based on the offshore fishery, and today Lunenburg is the site of Canada's largest secondary fish-processing plant. The town flourished in the late 1800s, and much of the historic architecture dates from that period.

The historic town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. UNESCO considers the site the best example of planned British colonial settlement in North America, having retained its original layout and appearance, including wooden architecture in the local vernacular. UNESCO considers the town in need of protection because the future of its traditional economic underpinnings, the Atlantic fishery, is now very uncertain.

The historic core of the town is also a National Historic Site of Canada.[2]


Lunenburg was named in 1753 after the Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg who had become King George II of Great Britain.[3] The displaced Acadian inhabitants of the site had called it Mirliguèche, a French spelling of a Mi'kmaq name[4] of uncertain meaning. An earlier Mi'kmaq name was āseedĭk, meaning clam-land.[5]


The Mi'kmaq lived in a territory from the present site of Lunenburg to Mahone Bay. As many as 300 inhabited the site in the warm summer months.[6] Acadians settled in the area around the 1620s. The Acadians and Mi’kmaq lived peacefully, sharing kinship and trade. In 1688, 10 Acadians and 11 Mi’kmaq were resident with dwellings and a small area of cultivated land. By 1745 there were eight families. When Edward Cornwallis visited in 1749, he reported several Mi’kmaw and Acadian families living together at Mirliguèche in comfortable houses and who appeared to be doing well.[7]

The peace and prosperity of Mirliguèche was ended by rivalry between Britain and France for the control of Canada in the 1700s. These two powers were involved in major conflicts in Europe, and with the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, the part of Acadia today known as peninsular Nova Scotia became another British colony on the eastern seaboard. However, the inhabitants of the area did not welcome the new regime and there were constant skirmishes and raids on British settlements. To guard against Mi'kmaq, Acadian and French attacks, Fort George was erected at Citadel Hill Halifax in 1749, and later that year Cornwallis ordered Mirliguèche destroyed.

The British sought to settle the lands with loyal subjects and brought more than 1,400 foreign protestants from French and German speaking areas of Europe in July 1753 to populate the site. Led by Charles Lawrence,[8] the settlers were accompanied by about 160 soldiers who assembled prefabricated blockhouses and built a palisade along the neck of land where the town was laid out.[9] The settlers spent the summer building shelters for the winter,[10] and not having done any fishing or farming, had to be provisioned from Halifax.[11] When the settlers became dissatisfied with the distribution of provisions, they rose in armed rebellion, only to be put down by troops led by Colonel Robert Monckton,[12] while others defected to the Acadian side.[13] In 1754 the town had a sawmill and a store.[14]

In 1755, after the Expulsion of the Acadians, the British needed to repopulate vacated lands, and offered generous land grants to colonists from New England, which was experiencing a severe land shortage.[15] Today these immigrants are known as the New England Planters, planters being an old word for colonist.

Lunenburg was raided in 1756, and afterwards,[16] prompting the British to respond with the Lunenburg Campaign of 1758. Hostilities with Mi'kmaq ended around 1760. During the American Revolution, privateers raided Lunenburg, including the 1782 raid, devastating the town. The town was fortified at the beginning of the War of 1812,[17] and the privateer Lunenburg operated by Lunenburg residents was authorised to raid American shipping.[18]

Over the years port activities transitioned from coastal trade and local mixed fisheries[19] to offshore fisheries. During Prohibition in the United States between 1920 and 1933 Lunenburg was the base for important rum-running operations.[20] The Lunenburg Cure was a style of dried and salted cod which was exported to the Caribbean.[21] Today a large hammered copper cod weather vane is mounted on the spire of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.

The Smith & Rhuland shipyard built many boats, including Bluenose (1921), Flora Alberta (1941), Sherman Zwicker (1942), Bluenose II (1963), Bounty (1961), and HMS Surprise (1970). In 1967 the yard was taken over by Scotia Trawler Equipment Limited. After the 1940s, shipbuilding switched from schooners to trawlers with the help of Newfoundland migrant labour.[22]


Physical geographyEdit

Lunenburg is in a natural harbour at the western side of Mahone Bay, about 100 kilometres southwest of the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The area is built largely on Cambrian to Ordovician sedimentary deposits. The last glacial period transformed the landscape. Glaciers abraded and plucked at the bedrock during their advances across the country, creating various deposits that vary in thickness, including drumlins, which are a key feature of Lunenburg County.[23]

The coastline in the area is heavily indented, and the town is on an isthmus on the Fairhaven Peninsula, with harbours on both the front and back sides.


The climate of Lunenburg is humid continental, bordering on an oceanic, with warm summers and mild winters, due to Gulf Stream moderation, which also causes seasonal lag. Generally Lunenburg is cool and rather wet. The average temperature is 6.5 °C. Even the driest month, July, sees 85 mm of rain, while the wettest, December, sees 149 mm. August is the warmest month, with an average temperature of 17.1 °C. February is the coldest with -4.4 C on average.[24]

Old TownEdit

The original planned town was built on a steep south-facing hillside. It was laid out with compact lots in a rectangular grid pattern of narrow streets without regard to the topography.[25] It is now known as the Old Town, and is the part of town which is protected by UNESCO. It is also the site of the old harbour. About 40 buildings in this area are on the Canadian Register of Historic Places including:

The Lunenburg Opera House is also in this area, though built in 1909, and not on the registry.

In 2005 the province of Nova Scotia bought 17 waterfront buildings from Clearwater Foods, the owner of the High Liner Foods brand, to ensure their preservation.[30] Ownership was transferred to the Lunenburg Waterfront Association. Shipbuilding infrastructure worth $1.5 million was added to the Lunenburg waterfront as part of the Bluenose II restoration project, which started in 2010.[31]

The site of the Smith & Rhuland shipyard is now a recreational marina.

The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, part of the Nova Scotia Museum, includes a small fleet of vessels,[32] including Bluenose II.[33]

Parts of the waterfront are still used by business. The shipyard ABCO Industries was founded in 1947 on the site of the World War II Norwegian military training facility Camp Norway, and now builds welded aluminum vessels. Lunenburg Shipyard is owned and operated by Lunenburg Industrial Foundry & Engineering. It offers a dry dock, manufacturing and machining, a carpentry shop, and a foundry capable of pouring 272 kg castings.[34] There are wharves for commercial inshore fishing.

New TownEdit

In the 1800s Lunenburg prospered through shipping, trade, fishing, farming, shipbuilding, and outgrew its original boundaries. The town was extended into the east and west of the Old Town into what is now known as the New Town.[35] This area includes about a dozen buildings on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.


Government in Nova Scotia has only two tiers: provincial and municipal. The province is divided into 50 municipalities, of which Lunenburg is one. The town is also within Lunenburg County, which was created for court sessional purposes in the 1860s and today has no government of its own, but the borders of which are coincident with certain provincial and federal electoral districts such as the Lunenburg Provincial Electoral District, and census districts. The county also covers the same terrain as the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg which surrounds, but does not include, Bridgewater, Lunenburg, and Mahone Bay, as they are incorporated separately and not part of the district municipality.


Colorful storefronts and signs lure tourists for visits

According to the 2016 census the most common National Occupational Classification was sales and services, with 24 per cent of jobs. By the North American Industry Classification System about half of all jobs were in health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, and retail.[1] High Liner Foods runs Canada's largest secondary fish-processing plant in the town.[36]

The town's architecture and picturesque location make it attractive to the film industry.[36] Films set in New England but filmed partly in Lunenburg include The Covenant[37] and Dolores Claiborne.[38] The 2010 Japanese movie Hanamizuki was partly set and filmed in Lunenburg[39] and the science fiction television show Haven was partly filmed there though it is set in the United States.[40] The 2012 film The Disappeared was shot in Lunenburg.[41]


The population of Lunenburg has varied between two and three thousand since 1871, peaking from the 1960s to the '80s, and declining since. In the 2016 Census conducted by Statistics Canada, the Town of Lunenburg recorded a population of 2,263 living in 1,040 of its 1,206 total private dwellings, a change of -2.2% from its 2011 population of 2,313. The overwhelming majority of the population is English-speaking Canadian Protestants. The population decreased slightly from 2011 to 2016, while Nova Scotia's population increased slightly. At 58, the median age is higher than the provincial median of 46. Household incomes are similar to provincial averages.[1] With a land area of 4.04 km2 (1.56 sq mi), Lunenburg had a population density of 560.1/km2 (1,450.8/sq mi) in 2016.[1]


Panoramic view
Downtown Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, on the Corner of King and Pelham Streets.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e "Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, and census subdivisions (municipalities), 2016 and 2011 censuses – 100% data (Nova Scotia)". Statistics Canada. February 8, 2017. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  2. ^ Old Town Lunenburg Historic District National Historic Site of Canada. . Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  3. ^ "Lunenburg". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  4. ^ Beck, Lauren (2016). "Early-Modern European and Indigenous Linguistic Influences on New Brunswick Place Names". Journal of New Brunswick Studies (7): 26. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  5. ^ Rand, Silas (1875). A First Reading Book in the Micmac Language: Comprising the Micmac Numerals, and the Names of the Different Kinds of Beasts, Birds, Fishes, Trees, &c. of the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Also, Some of the Indian Names of Places, and Many Familiar Words and Phrases, Translated Literally Into English. Nova Scotia Printing Company. p. 91. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  6. ^ Wicken, Bill (1993). "26 August 1726: A Case Study in Mi'kmaq-New England Relations in the Early 18th Century". Acadiensis. XXIII (Autumn): 5–22. JSTOR 30303468.
  7. ^ Knickle, Margaret JA (2017). Creating Space for Historical Narratives Through Indigenous Storywork and Unsettling the Settler (PDF). Mount Saint Vincent University. p. 59. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  8. ^ Graham, Dominick (1974–2019). "Charles Lawrence". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  9. ^ Ferguson, Charles (1974–2019). "Patrick Sutherland". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved 11 May 2019.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  10. ^ Grenier, John (2008). The Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia, 1710–1760. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3876-3.
  11. ^ Genier, John (2008). The Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia, 1710–1760. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-0806138763. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  12. ^ Griffiths, N.E.S. (2005). From Migrant to Acadian: A North American Border People, 1604–1755. McGill-Queen's Press – MQUP. p. 422. ISBN 978-0773526990. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  13. ^ Murdoch, Beamish (1866). A History of Nova Scotia, Or Acadie. J Barnes. p. 227. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  14. ^ Beck, J (1979–2019). "Philip Augustus Knaut". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  15. ^ "The Population Explosion in 1700s America". dummies. Wiley. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  16. ^ Bell, Winthrop (1961). The Foreign Protestants and the Settlement of Nova Scotia: The History of a Piece of Arrested British Colonial Policy in the Eighteenth Century. University of Toronto Press. p. 513. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  17. ^ Young, Richard. "Blockhouses in Canada, 1749–1841: A Comparative Report and Catalogue". Parks Canada. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  18. ^ Boileau, John (2005). Half-Hearted Enemies: Nova Scotia, New England and the War of 1812. Formac Publishing Company. p. 66. ISBN 9780887806575. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  19. ^ "Fishery". Canadian Geographic. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  20. ^ "Recalling cops and rum runners in Prohibition". CBC. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  21. ^ Kurlansky, Mark (1998). Cod : a biography of the fish that changed the world. Vintage Canada. p. 128. ISBN 978-0676971118. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  22. ^ Neary, Peter (1982). "Canadian Immigration Policy and the Newfoundlanders, 1912–1939". Acadiensis. pp. 78–83.
  23. ^ Roland, Albert (1982). Geological Background and Physiography of Nova Scotia. Halifax, N.S.: Ford Publishing Co. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-919680-19-7.
  24. ^ "Lunenburg". Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  25. ^ "18th Century". Town of Lunenburg. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  26. ^ Knaut-Rhuland House. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 07 May 2019.
  27. ^ "Knaut-Rhuland House Museum, National Historic Site". Lunenburg Heritage Society. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  28. ^ Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 04 May 2019.
  29. ^ St. John's Anglican Church. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 04 May 2019.
  30. ^ Dunfield, Allison. "Nova Scotia to buy historic Lunenburg buildings". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  31. ^ "Restoration of Bluenose II to begin". CBC. 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  32. ^ "Vessels". Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Nova Scotia Museum. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  33. ^ "Bluenose II". Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  34. ^ "Lunenburg Industrial Foundry & Engineering". Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  35. ^ "19th Century". Town of Lunenburg. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  36. ^ a b Mccann, L (2015). "Lunenburg". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  37. ^ "The Covenant (2006)". IMDB. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  38. ^ "Dolores Claiborne (1995)". IMDB. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  39. ^ "5 Months in Total After the Start of Filming in Canada..." The Japan Times Online (in Japanese). cafegroove Corporation. 2010-04-27. Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  40. ^ "Haven (2010–2015)". IMDB. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  41. ^ "Behind-the-scenes look at local movie shoot: The Disappeared" (PDF). The Lunenburg County Progress. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  42. ^ Blakely, Phyllis (1979–2019). "Charles Morris". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  43. ^ Beck, J (1983–2019). "Christopher Dettlieb Jessen". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Lava. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  44. ^ Beck, J (1983–2019). "John Creighton". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  45. ^ Fingard, Judith (1974–2019). "Jean-Baptiste Moreau". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  46. ^ "Welcome To The H & SW Railway Museum". Halifax & Southwestern Railway Museum. Retrieved 11 May 2019.

External linksEdit