This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the launch of the legendary Bluenose schooner, and its home port of Lunenburg will celebrate with the reopening of a key part of its long shipbuilding tradition, the Big Boat Shed.
The newly restored waterfront structure was the main boatbuilding facility for the historic South Shore town’s Smith and Rhuland Shipyards, where 270 ships were constructed over the decades. Its most famous creations include the Bluenose II, the replica of the HMS Bounty for the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty and the replica of the 18th century HMS Rose, built in 1970 and later used in the 2001 Peter Weir movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
Now the Big Boat Shed will become the latest addition to Lunenburg’s Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, providing space for new exhibits and exhibitions starting this summer. The Lunenburg Marine Museum Society announced the start of the restoration project in 2019, and with support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the province, the revived space will be a showcase for the craft of traditional boat building, while offering an opportunity for interactive activities.
“The Big Boat Shed offers us another outstanding tool for telling the story of our province’s fishing and boat building heritage,” said museum general manager Angela Saunders in the announcement of the restoration’s completion.
Saunders expects the project will be a major draw for Nova Scotians who visit the town of Lunenburg and its historic waterfront this year, and Canadian and international visitors in years to come.
“Given Lunenburg’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a working waterfront, we are proud to be able to give visitors a front row seat to living history. Not many places are able to offer that hands-on experience. When paired with the Bluenose 100 celebrations this year, there’s much to look forward to in 2021.”
Provincial crown corporation Develop Nova Scotia oversaw the restoration project as part of its ongoing work with the community to revitalize the waterfront. Given the size and importance of the project, it is a key part of both the Lunenburg working waterfront master plan and the town’s strategic planning.
Government contributions totaled $1.5 million for stabilizing the structure, building a new floor and installing a full-length slipway. The original Big Boat Shed building will also include a new facility for hands-on small boat building, an interpretation centre and space for new programming and exhibits run by the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic.
“The success of projects like the Big Boat Shed are measured, not by what we build, but how we build it,” said Develop Nova Scotia president and CEO Jennifer Angel, “so we’ll know we’ve got it right when local community members love the place that we’ve built together and feel it contributes to the authenticity of Lunenburg.”