A Brief History of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

The Lunenburg Fisheries Museum

There is no question that Lunenburg is a town steeped in history, and while the best way to immerse yourself is to pay it a visit, we will do our best to give you a small taste of that history here. 

Where it all began…

We’ll start in 1753, when settlers from Germany, France, and Switzerland made landfall in the front harbor below the majestic hill. In an area previously occupied by the Mi’kmaq First Nations and Acadian settlers, these new “Foreign Protestants”, as they were known, were part of a plan to increase the British presence in Nova Scotia. The plan worked well and Lunenburg became the first British Colony in Nova Scotia outside of Halifax. 

Land was divided up between the new settlers, everyone had a lot for their house, a small lot for growing vegetables, and a large lot for their farm animals. Unfortunately, local soils weren’t exactly a prime choice for farming, so people needed to turn to the next obvious thing to “harvest” – the ocean.

A large ship.

Conquerors of the Sea

It only took a generation or two before these early Lunenburgers became expert conquerors of the sea; from ship building to selling an abundance of seafood, the coastal lifestyle soon became synonymous with the local identity. 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.

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. This was also the time of prohibition and the highly romanticized “rum running” era. 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.

A bright blue storefront building in Lunenburg.

An Identity Steeped in History

That local identity is still very true to this day, though it’s expanded to include other important aspects such as placing a strong emphasis on art, community, and preserving local culture and heritage.  

Lunenburg remains a vibrant town with an impressive mix of industry, shops, services, and an eclectic artistic community.

Yours to discover… yours to explore…