Schools in Lunenburg

Prior to the Free School Act being passed by the Provincial Legislature in 1864 education was provided by private schools, church schools and later by the Lunenburg Grammar School. All these schools were maintained and operated by private funds and parents were expected to pay towards their children's education at these establishments. One such private school opened in 1850 by a Miss Gow, who taught class in two rented rooms in a building owned by the Presbyterian Church. On the page below is a copy of a page from Miss Gow's school book dated January 1857, found in Mr J Moyle Rudolf's diary of 1894, showing the names of pupils and parents at Miss Gow's school.

In October 1864, after the Free School Act was passed, the ratepayers of Lunenburg held a meeting in the schoolhouse opposite St John's Church to decide if an Academy should be built and supported by taxation. It was agreed unanimously and trustees were appointed, as was the new Principal Mr F W George. Until a new building, big enough to accommodate the pupils, was completed the new Academy operated from the old Temperance Hall.

The frame for this first Academy, shown at the left, was raised in 1865 at the corner of Townsend and Prince Streets. The first building was a single storey, 50ft by 90 ft, with a 50ft ell. There were four classrooms to accommodate 200 pupils.

Names of some of the pupils and their parents at Miss Gow's School, 1857

Tuition fees at Miss Gow's School, 1857.

The school population grew and a second storey was added to the Academy in the 1880s. With its second storey the school now had 8 to 10 classrooms and could better accommodate the rising school population.

According to the 1891 census the population of Lunenburg County was 31,075, of whom 8,854 were illiterate. Four years later there were 180 teachers in the county and 171 schools. School enrolment was 7,552 students - 3,915 boys and 3,637 girls.

Disaster struck in 1893 when the Academy was destroyed by fire. The following description of the event was recorded in the diary of J. Moyle Rudolf:

"On Thursday September 28th 1893 at half past twelve in the day, the Lunenburg Academy on the square bounded east by Prince Street caught fire and burned to ashes. No lives were lost, the wind was east with rain. Cause of fire a defective flue."

It was decided that the new Academy should be moved away from the centre of the town to a location offering more space. The new school could not be built at the old location as "….according to the law now the old site was too small" (diary of J. Moyle Rudolf).

Two other possible sites were considered: one at the top of Gallows Hill and the other on Blockhouse Hill. The Council was divided on which location to choose, and the Mayor's casting vote resulted in Gallows Hill being selected.

Unfortunately, the problems for the new Academy didn't end with the selection of the site.

The renowned architect, Mr H. H. Mott from St John NB, was chosen to design the building. In October 1894 the tender for construction was awarded to the Oxford Furniture Company and work began. Unfortunately by early 1895 this company had gone bankrupt. To ensure that the work continued it was taken over by Solomon Morash, a local master builder. The final cost was $30,000.

Lunenburg Academy as it still stands today

The Academy is still used as a school and is an outstanding landmark and a National Historic site.