• Registration Year


  • Registered Sector

    Lunenburg Old Town

  • Historical Function

    Fishing and ship-building.

  • Administrative Status

    Seat of the Lunenburg County.

Location and site

On the Atlantic Ocean, in the southeast of Nova Scotia and 90 km. from Halifax, Lunenburg was built on a peninsula which extends between two ports. Facing the south, the old town occupies a steep slope which overlooks a harbour bay.

Urban Morphology

Like Halifax, which was founded in 1749, Lunenburg follows a model of colonial planning principles. Its layout, which provided inspiration for other North American urban centres, was based on four principles: a rigourous grid, a central space reserved for public buildings, a space reserved for fortifications, and clearly defined limits for the urban area. The grid is made up of eight rectangular blocks, each of which includes 14 properties. The width of the streets, which was regulated, was determined by their orientation, and the widest street led to the port. Only the fortifications have disappeared.

The urban fabric, which is divided into small properties, is relatively dense. Two-thirds of the buildings, which are consistent in both their styling and materials (wood clapboard and shingles), date to the 19th century. Only the steeples of the churches rise above the townscape. The houses, with their dormers and bright colours, were constructed very close to the streets. The waterfront is lined with buildings serving functions linked to the sea.

Registration Criteria

Criteria (IV)
"... in its clearly legible model town plan, the buildings forms and fabrics, its cultural evolution based on the pursuance of the shipbuildings and fishing industries, this architectural assembly illustrates successive stages in the human history of North America..."

Criteria (V)
"... the offshore Atlantic fishery, the centuries long backbone of Lunenburg's economy, has evolved over time. And while it may continue to evolve in the future, it is clear that will be in a form which can not yet be fully defined..."

Historical Reference

  • In 1753, a British colonisation program led to the arrival of colonists from Germany, Switzerland and France's Montbéliard region at Lunenburg, a site previously occupied by Aboriginal and Acadians. From the time of its foundation, Lunenburg was made up of Lutheran and Presbyterian congregations. Its population of 1,500 was mostly German-speaking.
  • At that time, the Atlantic coast was frequented by pirates. In 1782, the town was sacked by American pirates. Since the end of the 18th century, its economy has been based on deep-sea fishing. One of its most important export markets was the West Indies.
  • Lunenburg economy has diversified to include it an high tech industries.
  • In the middle of the 19th century, Lunenburg enjoyed a period of great economic prosperity thanks to its fishing and ship-building industries. Its first fleet was sent towards the banks of Newfoundland in 1850. Its products were exported to the United States and the West Indies from the port of Halifax.
  • Technological innovation originating in Lunenburg revolutionized the fishing industry. Even today, the deep-sea fishing fleet and the fresh fish treatment plants are among the most up-to-date in Canada. Lunenburg remains an important ship-building centre where traditional techniques are still practised.
Mr. Peter Haughn
Deputy Town Manager/Clerk
Town of Lunenburg
P.O. Box 129
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
B0J 2C0
+1.902.634.4410 ext. 222
Mr. Arthur MacDonald
Heritage Manager
Town of Lunenburg
119 Cumberland Street
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
B0J 2C0
1-902-634-4410 ext 234
Lunenburg: St. John’s Anglican Church
Lunenburg: The Lunenburg Inn
Lunenburg: The Bluenose Lodge
Lunenburg: Maritime Charm
Lunenburg: Bluenose II Deck
Lunenburg: Aerial View of Lunenburg
Lunenburg: Band Stand at Christmas
Lunenburg: Tall Ships in Lunenburg
Lunenburg: The Dory Shop
Lunenburg: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Lunenburg: Lunenburg Academy (Elementary School)
Lunenburg: Carriage Tour of Old Town Lunenburg
Lunenburg: Historic Homes
Lunenburg: Bluenose Golf Club
Lunenburg: Harbour
Lunenburg: Kayaking in Lunenburg’s Harbour