Lunenburg, NS, incorporated as a town in 1888, population 2313 (2011c), 2317 (2006c). The Town of Lunenburg, the shire town of Lunenburg County, is located on Lunenburg Bay, 90 km southwest of Halifax.
Once the centre of Nova Scotia's fishing industry, it was known first as Merliguesche, and was home to some 50 Acadians as late as 1749. In 1753 the British government settled 1453 "Foreign Protestants" here; recruited from southwestern Germany and the Montbéliard district of France and Switzerland, these mostly German-speaking people were intended to help counter the French and Catholic presence in Nova Scotia. (The settlement was named for the royal house of Brunswick-Lüneburg, whence came King George I of England.) Each settler was granted a free town-and-garden lot and farm acreage in the county. The town's gridlike plan mirrored that of Halifax.
Despite initial hardships, by the late 18th century Lunenburg supplied Halifax with many agricultural products. Lunenburgers had also entered the offshore fishery, today the foundation of the local economy. They first fished off the Labrador coast, but with the introduction of new trawling techniques in the late 1860s, the town's schooner fleet turned to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and the Western Bank, southwest of Sable Island. The "Lunenburg cure" of dried cod found steady markets in the West Indies, particularly Puerto Rico.
"A boom of splendid proportions" (Lunenburg Progress, 1888) did not persist, however. The fish export trade became centralized in Halifax, where fast steamships left directly for the West Indies and US markets. Moreover, a preference appeared for fresh instead of dried fish. Local entrepreneurs, especially the Smith and Zwicker families, made adjustments to recapture lost trade. Beginning in the late 1920s, cold-storage equipment, processing plants and diesel-powered trawlers replaced cod-drying flakes and traditional schooners.
Today, Lunenburg is the base for Canada's largest secondary fish-processing plant, owned and operated by High Liner Foods Inc, the successor to several Lunenburg-owned firms.
The fishery is celebrated annually in the Fisherman's Picnic and Reunion and the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is found here. The famous racing schooner Bluenose was launched from a local shipyard in 1921.
Several churches, including Canada's oldest Presbyterian (St Andrew's, founded in 1769) and Lutheran (Zion, founded in 1770), and second-oldest Anglican (St John's, founded in 1754), as well as a rich architectural tradition, testify to Lunenburg's historical significance. "Old Town" Lunenburg was designated a national historic district in 1992 and a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1995. The film industry has been attracted by the town's picturesque location and architectural heritage. The town hosts a craft festival in July and a folk festival in August.