Old Town Lunenburg Historic District National Historic Site of Canada
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
© Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parcs Canada, 1993.
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1753 to 1991
1753 to 1753
1753 to 1753
Event, Person, Organization:
First landing; laying out the township 1753
Old Town Lunenburg Historic District
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: Bluenose Drive, Lunenburg Harbour, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
A remarkable historical continuity is found in the streets, public spaces, buildings and daily life of Old Town Lunenburg. Set on a hill overlooking the harbour, Lunenburg was founded in 1753. Its gridiron layout, with a parade square half-way up the hill, is one of the earliest and most intact British model plans in Canada. On this compact site, pioneer German-French- and English-speaking settlers constructed a variety of wood-frame buildings that set the tone for a colourful and harmonious town centre. Today, Lunenburg boasts fine examples of Cape Cod, British Classical, Second Empire and post-victorian buildings. Many houses feature the famous Lunenburg "bump" a large dormer popular in the late 19th century. Along the commercial streets, a well-maintained collection of shops and public buildings testifies to the town's commitment to heritage conservation. Still active on the waterfront are fishing and shipbuilding industries which have won Lunenburg international acclaim for more than 150 years.
Description of Historic Place
The Old Town Lunenburg Historic District covers the core area of the town of Lunenburg, a well-preserved example of 18th-century colonization and settlement patterns with numerous outstanding examples of vernacular architecture spanning more than 240 years. It occupies the side of a hill and a narrow area along a natural harbour and includes the town's original parade square, as well as a waterfront area that is associated with the fishing and shipbuilding industries. The formal recognition consists of contributing buildings and lands contained within the boundaries of the original town plan of 1753. Old Town Lunenburg has also been designated a World Heritage Site.
The Old Town Lunenburg Historic District was designated a national historic site in 1991 by virtue of its gridiron layout, one of the earliest and most intact British model plans in Canada, its strong historical associations especially with the Atlantic fisheries, and the richness and homogeneity of its architecture.
The heritage value of the Old Town Lunenburg Historic District resides in the original plan, the built forms and open spaces within the plan, the physical and cultural manifestations of the off-shore fishing and shipbuilding industries and the harmonious integration of the town and the seascape. Laid out by Charles Morris at the time of his landing on June 8, 1753, Lunenburg=s Old Town Plan was the second British >model plan= created in present-day Canada, a gridiron plan type which had a direct and important relationship to British imperial settlement policy.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1991; World Heritage List Nomination (Appendix 3: Character Statement).
The character-defining elements that relate to the townsite as a whole are: its gridiron, "model town" plan, as evidenced in its geometrically regular streets and blocks, its allocation of public spaces, and its distinction between urban and non-urban areas; its small lots; the densely built nature of the townsite; its comprehensive collection of 18th to 20th-century buildings and works, including residences, churches, institutional buildings, shops and wharves; the continuing tradition of painting buildings in bright colours; the unity and cohesiveness created by the predominance of wood construction and exterior finishes among all building types and styles; the general orientation of the town and its major institutional buildings towards the harbour; the larger-scaled waterfront buildings, including wooden warehouses, lofts, boatshops, and industrial buildings, many with their gable end turned to the harbour, most of a large scale, and all painted in bright colours; its skyline punctuated by the spires of its churches; the heritage characters of St. John Anglican Church and the Knaut-Rhuland House National Historic Site of Canada.
The character-defining elements that relate to 18th-century construction are: a number of houses of "coulisse" construction, now clad in clapboard or shingles; single-storey Cape Cod dwellings; two-storey houses constructed in the British classical tradition; the former Court House; pre-fire surviving elements of St. John’s Anglican Church.
The character-defining elements that relate to 19th-century construction are: the larger and more elaborate buildings that continued earlier building traditions; traditional Cape Cod and British classical residences; modifications to 18th and early 19th-century houses; Second Empire-style residences of families associated with the fishing and shipbuilding industries; the frequent use of the Lunenburg "bump" dormer in all its variations; pre-fire surviving elements of St. John's Anglican Church; St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church and the Lunenburg Lutheran Church, buildings associated with the oldest continuing worshipping Presbyterian and Lutheran congregations in Canada.
The character-defining elements that relate to 20th-century construction are: its 20th-century housing stock, including simple post-World War II bungalows, "Four-Square" houses, and Dutch Colonial Revival-style houses, that continue earlier wood construction traditions on a modest scale; sympathetically scaled commercial buildings located along Lincoln Street that help create a cohesive streetscape.
The character-defining elements associated with the history of the shipbuilding and fishing industries in Canada are: waterfront shipyards, including those still used for shipbuilding and retrofitting; buildings and facilities associated with the work and community life of people who worked in the fishing industry, including the Adams & Knickle waterfront complex and the Smith and Rhuland shipyard.