A Brief History of Lunenburg
In 1749 handbills were posted throughout Europe encouraging emigration to the New World, and over 2,700 "Foreign Protestants" responded to the offer and emigrated to Nova Scotia. Most came from the Upper Rhine area of present-day Germany, from the French and German-speaking Swiss cantons and from the French-speaking principality of Montbeliard. They arrived in Halifax and remained there under British protection, working on the fortifications in order to pay off the cost of their passage.
The proposed town to be developed was named Lunenburg, in honour of King George II, Duke of Brunschweig-Lunenburg. In 1753, just prior to embarking for Lunenburg, the males old enough to qualify as landholders assembled in St. Paul's Church, Halifax, where they drew for lots in the new community. Playing cards were used, each card being marked with the number and division name for a plot of land within the town. The Town itself was sited on a neck of land between the front and back harbours and was divided into 6 divisions, each named after one of the newly appointed local officers. Each division had 8 blocks and each block was divided into 14 town lots of 60 ft. by 40 ft. The original layout of the "Old Town" has remained unchanged and contains some of the best-preserved wooden houses in Canada dating from the 18th century.
On 8 June, 1753, the first settlers landed at Rous' Brook. Some 1,453 men, women and children began the daunting task of building their new lives. The settlement was overseen by British military forces under Colonel Charles Lawrence.
Over its first 100 years the Town grew steadily owing to a bustling economy based on farming, fishing, shipbuilding, and ocean based commerce, particularly in the West Indies trade. But by the mid 19th century, the Town had outgrown its old boundaries and, in 1862, parts of the surrounding Common Land were subdivided to facilitate expansion. Areas immediately to the east and west of the Old Town were laid off in building lots and other larger parcels and an area further west beyond the head of Lunenburg harbour was subdivided to create the core of what became known as the "New Town". The New Town area quickly became fashionable, and wealthy merchants and professionals built impressive new houses there.
The expansion of the fishing industry continued into the 20th Century and a host of associated businesses flourished along Lunenburg's waterfront. The age of sail culminated in the Bluenose Era, the 1920s and '30s, when the Town was a hive of activity, the harbour filled with masts and sails, including those of the famous schooner Bluenose, and the nearby shores taken up by fish drying flakes. This was also the time of prohibition and the highly romanticized "rum running" era. In the 1940s the schooner-based salt fishery declined in favour of the modern trawler and frozen and processed fish production. Ship repairing and outfitting became important activities during the Second World War and, by the 1950s, Lunenburg was a mature fishing port with prosperous industrial and commercial sectors and a thrifty, hard-working population.
It was because of diligence, hard work, competence and endurance that the early settlers were able to survive. Coming to this new land gave them hope for peace and freedom. They brought the traits and traditions that enabled the people of Lunenburg not only to survive and continue, but also to make their town one of the best known in all of Canada.
Old Town Lunenburg was first designated as a National Historic District by the Federal government in 1992, a fitting honour recognizing the rich heritage of the Town. In 1995, an even greater honour was bestowed upon Lunenburg when "Old Town" Lunenburg was added to the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage List.
Today Lunenburg remains a vibrant Town with an impressive mix of industry, shops, services, and an eclectic artist community. Come and discover, come and explore...