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Nestled in the Town's centre and occupying the westernmost of the four blocks that were originally reserved for public purposes, is St. John's Anglican Church.
Tragically, the church suffered substantial damage as a result of a fire in the early hours of November 1, 2001. Details of the fire and the four-year restoration project can be found here.
At the time of the settlement in 1753, services were first held in the open air on this site under the ministry of the first Anglican missionary, Jean Baptiste Moreau.
In 1754, the Lords of Trade and Plantations (the British Colonial Government administrators) made a grant of about 500 pounds for the building of a church, and the oak frame of St. John's was brought to Lunenburg from Boston. It is believed that the frame may have come from the old King's Chapel in Boston, which was being dismantled at the time.
The original building was constructed in the simple two storey New England meeting-house style. It took several years to build the church and it was not until 1763 that the building could be finished to the point where it could be said to be "neat and commodious".
Early sketches indicate that the church originally had a circular tower with a steeply pitched conical roof.
The building remained in this original form for more than 80 years.
In 1840, the tower was redesigned by William Lawson, a school master who later became principal of the Lunenburg Grammer School. The new tower was 12 x 12 ft. square, 70 ft. high and had "handsome pinnacles in the gothic style," heralding the burgeoning overall gothic character of the church. The new tower also facilitated the inclusion of a vestry room, a large entry room, and a singing pew. It cost about 300 pounds to build, and later, housed a bell donated by Admiral Boscowen. Between 1870-75, the church was moved 25 ft. to the west to make room for the addition of a new chancel at the eastern end. At the same time the nave was extended by 10 ft. and the flat, plastered ceiling was changed to the present sloping ceiling. Also, the tower was rebuilt yet again, taking the form in which it can still be seen today.
The next change came in 1892 when the present side aisles, designed by a committee of carpenters from the congregation, were added under the direction of Solomon Morash. Also at this time, the notable hammer beam ceiling structure was installed. The beams occur at each column location and are joined across the width of the church by steel tie rods. In addition to the exposed wooden roof deck, dark wooden pews, wooden floor, marbleized pillars, and many stained glass windows, paintings and plaques have, over the years, added further richness to the interior.
Despite alterations, the church has acquired a unique, highly ornamented "carpenter gothic" character that is in perfect harmony with both its site and with the wooden houses that surround it, these houses themselves having been altered and ornamented in much the same way. The church, which, after St. Paul's in Halifax, was the second Anglican church to be erected in Nova Scotia, is a highly significant local landmark and has been recognized as such by its designation as a Provincial Heritage Property and National Historic Site.