Lunenburg

A delightful rest at the Lunenburg Inn after a very compressed and hectic day along the Lighthouse Trail yesterday got me ready for another day of adventures. At about 7:30 I made my downstairs in anticipation of a filling breakfast. Sure enough, a freshly baked morning glory muffin was served to quench my immediate hunger. I had two breakfasts to choose from: a hot breakfast featuring poached eggs with bacon or turkey bacon, or a cold breakfast featuring a choice of two items of either cereal with fruit / fat-free yoghurt / fresh toast with jam or stewed rhubarb. I opted for the cereal with fresh fruit and the stewed rhubarb which was delicious. The breakfast at the Lunenburg Inn was so generous I wasn’t even able to finish my entire portion. Appropriately strengthened I was now ready for a full day of discoveries.

At about 8:30 I made my way on foot into the town of Lunenburg, an extremely charming and scenic settlement that is home to about 2500 full-time residents and many thousands more during tourist season. Lunenburg is one of Nova Scotia’s favourite travel destinations, and for good reason. In 1995, Lunenburg was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its unique architecture and civic design as it represents one of the best preserved examples of a planned British colonial settlement in North America.

The town was founded in 1753 and earlier inhabitants included the Mi’kmaq Natives as well as Acadian settlers. Lunenburg was named in honour of the Duke of Braunschweig-Lunenburg who had become the King of England in 1727. The settlers brought in by the British Crown were known as the foreign protestants, mostly farmers who had been recruited from areas in the southern and central parts of Germany, Switzerland and France. They were deliberately chosen for their potential loyalty to the British Crown. Over the years this farming community turned into a successful seaport and shipbuilding centre, and even today High Liner Foods still has a fish processing plan in town.

I strolled down to the waterfront on Bluenose Drive on a brilliant early fall morning, with not a cloud in the sky. Several restaurants and inns line the street on the north side, and the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic which houses the popular Old Fish Factory restaurant is located on the south side of the street. The little town stretches up from the water on a fairly steep hill with long streets running east west, and shorter streets connecting straight up to the crest of the hill.

This was a quiet Friday morning, and the locals and tourists alike were still lying low. As I strolled up the hill I started to see shop-owners who were opening their doors and putting out their merchandise for sale. Lunenburg has a myriad of antique stores, small galleries and craft stores, and most of the houses are in excellent repair and colourfully painted.

The town presents a very unified image of clapboard covered homes, and the historic local architecture includes a charming range of styles including the Cape Cod Style, Neo-Classical or Georgian homes, a Scottish style which includes five-sided Scottish dormers, Gothic Revival, Second Empire and Queen Ann Revival styles. A typical feature of Lunenburg architecture is the “Lunenburg Bump” which features a projecting Scottish dormer, also referred to as the bump.

Lunenburg is an extremely charming town. The centre of the town is located near St. John’s Anglican Church, the most well known ecclesiastical structure in town. This church was built in 1754 and gothicized in 1870 to 1875. Just recently, on Halloween night in 2001, the church was gutted by a spectacular blaze under mysterious circumstances. The community was dismayed, but they raised the money and the church was rebuilt in its entirety.

Further up the hill is Lunenburg’s most prominent landmark: the Lunenburg Academy, an elementary school for grades one to five, is located at the top of Gallows Hill, overlooking the town. It was built from 1894 to 1895 and each floor has six entrances, six classrooms and six staircases connecting up to the next level.

From the top of the hill I walked back into the town’s centre and came across a monumental red brick building, the town’s courthouse and city hall. A beautiful park located on an upslope is adjacent to city hall and just outside the building is a memorial commemorating Norwegian soldiers that were trained here as gunners in Lunenburg during World War II. Norway had the third-largest ocean going merchant fleet in 1940 with 1100 ships, and when the Nazis invaded Norway, the King and government ordered these ships to proceed to allied ports. From 1940 to 1941 Norwegian whaling and sealing vessels ended up in the port of Lunenburg when Norway was occupied by the Germans. More than 1000 Norwegians were trained here for military service at Camp Lunenburg, and many of their vessels were converted into naval vessels and armed freighters.

Strolling further down the hill I arrived back at the waterfront where I decided to pay a quick visit to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Lunenburg historically was a proud shipbuilding centre, and the world famous schooner Bluenose as well as her daughter, the Bluenose II, were built here. The Bluenose was a fishing schooner as well as a racing ship and was launched in Lunenburg in 1921. Fishing schooners had become obsolete after WWII and despite efforts to keep the Bluenose in Nova Scotia, it was sold as a freighter in the West Indies. In 1946 finally it ran aground on a Haitian reef.

The Bluenose II was launched at Lunenburg in 1963 and built to original plans by many of the same workers who had worked on the original Bluenose. The costs of $300,000 were financed by a local family as a marketing tool for their brewery operations in Halifax and Saint John. As a result of her popularity, the Nova Scotia government bought the vessel, and it has become a goodwill ambassador and symbol of the province. The Canadian ten cent coin features the Bluenose and the Nova Scotia license plates also feature this famous vessel.

I entered the Fisheries Museum and was lucky to just catch the 10 am lobster presentation in the aquarium. A resident expert was demonstrating the various body parts of a lobster and talking about the lifecycle of these crusty creatures. Fortunately this specimen had its pincers tied since it did not seem to be too happy about being included in this presentation. The presenter went on to educate us about lobster fishing, demonstrating the different types of lobster traps in use.

Following this educational presentation I went outside and set foot on two different vessels that are permanently moored in front of the Fisheries Museum. The Theresa E. Connor is a schooner that was built in Lunenburg in 1938 and fishing the banks for 26 years until technology changed from hook and line fishing to fishing with big trawler nets.

The Cape Sable, built in 1962 in Leiden, Holland, is anchored right next to the Theresa O’Connor. It is a steel-hulled side trawler, the generation of boats that replaced the old-style schooners. The Cape Sable retired from service in 1982 and now teaches visitors about the lifestyle of fishermen.

I then went inside the museum which features a myriad of displays about the fishing industry on three different levels. The second floor holds a Fishermen’s Memorial room, paying tribute to all the fishermen who lost their lives at sea. Fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations and many fishermen have made the ultimate sacrifice.

The first floor features the Aquarium, the Gift Shop as well as a Fish Demonstration Room, the Hall of Inshore fisheries, a Marine Engine Display, an exhibit about Whaling and Whales as well as a Boatbuilding Shop. The Second Floor holds the Bank Fishery Age of Sail Exhibit as well as a Vessel Gallery and the afore-mentioned Fishermen’s Memorial Room.

The Third Floor has an exhibit on Rum Runners, individuals who daringly smuggled alcoholic beverages during the prohibition years from 1920 to 1933. Other exhibits on businesses related to the fishing industry and life in fishing communities round out the informative displays. The Ice House Theatre has a capacity of 85 people and offers a variety of films related to the fishing industry.

Every day the Fisheries Museum presents an extensive program that includes a lobster presentation, fishermen’s stories on the Theresa E. Conner and the Bluenose Saga. Practical skills such as net mending, trawl rigging and rope work, rope splicing and knots are demonstrated. Presentations such as “A Whale of a Tale” and “The Scoop on Scallops” are also held on a daily basis.

This was an extremely interesting experience, but if I wanted to make my way back to Halifax in time, I would have to leave the museum and make my way back to the Lunenburg Inn where I would have a chance to sit down and chat with the owners prior to continuing my drive along the Lighthouse Trail towards Peggy’s Cove and Halifax..