High­light­ing Lunen­burg’s lit­er­ary com­mu­nity

South Shore Breaker - - LOCAL - JOSH HEALEY edi­tor@southshore­breaker.ca

The proud fish firms of Mon­tague Street, for­merly the lifeblood of Lunen­burg’s fish­ery, are gone. But now, with the rise of tourism, a cul­ture of lit­er­a­ture is breath­ing new life into the build­ings which once pro­duced the blocks, oars and sails for the town’s fish­ing fleet.

Lunen­burg, which boasts a mere pop­u­la­tion of 2,263 peo­ple ac­cord­ing to the 2016 cen­sus, is able to sup­port a thriv­ing li­brary, a lit­er­ary fes­ti­val and three in­de­pen­dent book­shops.

“I feel like we are this mi­cro­cosm of a larger trend,” she said, em­pha­siz­ing the im­por­tance of Lunen­burg’s lit­er­ary ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

“It means that there is re­ally hope for lit­er­acy, for lit­er­a­ture, for ideas, for in­tel­li­gence in the world.”

Op­por­tu­nity

Lunen­burg’s three book­shops are all con­tained within a 60-me­tre stretch of side­walk perched just above the painted wa­ter­front.

Lex­i­con Books is housed at 125 Mon­tague St., tak­ing up res­i­dence in the old block shop. El­iz­a­beth’s Books is only a short dis­tance away and Lunen­burg Bound

Books com­pletes the cir­cuit, oc­cu­py­ing 139 Mon­tague St. The whole sec­tion is fondly re­ferred to as the book district.

Three years ago, Michael Hig­gins of Lunen­burg Bound Books de­cided to change his life and open a bookshop.

But he wasn’t the only one look­ing to deal in pa­per­backs.

“It was a bit of a co­in­ci­dence that Lex­i­con (Books) and Lunen­burg Bound opened within a week of each other,” said Hig­gins with a smile.

El­iz­a­beth’s Books, which is the old­est of the three shops, has been a sta­ple of the com­mu­nity for years. Although much has been made out of the demise of print, Hig­gins high­lighted that, like vinyl, peo­ple are re­turn­ing to the printed word.

“I think we (both) felt there was an op­por­tu­nity to have an in­de­pen­dent bookshop. A lot of the trou­bles in the book re­tail busi­ness are be­hind us,” he said. “Peo­ple are look­ing for an in­ti­mate con­nec­tion with books and a book­seller.”

Bur­dick also saw an op­por­tu­nity in Lunen­burg to make a dif­fer­ence.

“It’s a re­ally di­verse com­mu­nity, in the sense of the dif­fer­ent ages of peo­ple here, peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds and in­ter­ests. There’s a lot ar­tis­ti­cally hap­pen­ing in gen­eral in town. It’s a lit­er­ate pop­u­la­tion,” she said.

Tourism has in many ways en­abled the growth of these three shops, given that hun­dreds of tourists flock to the town each day through­out the sum­mer. To­gether, Hig­gins said, he be­lieves the book district has helped ex­pand the mar­ket for lit­er­a­ture in town.

“I think there is a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion for (lit­er­a­ture) than there has been for the last 20 years,” he said.

Build­ings

The in­ter­est in lit­er­a­ture has ex­tended it­self to the re­pur­pos­ing of his­tor­i­cal spa­ces in Lunen­burg.

For ex­am­ple, the Lunen­burg branch of the South Shore Pub­lic Li­braries is pre­par­ing to move from its cur­rent lo­ca­tion on Pel­ham Street to the His­toric Lunen­burg Academy.

The academy, which was con­structed in 1895, has un­der­gone a re­vival in the last few years and in ad­di­tion to the li­brary, the academy houses other or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the South Shore Ge­nealog­i­cal So­ci­ety. The li­brary por­tion is ex­pected to be un­veiled later this sum­mer.

Jeff Mercer, the deputy chief li­brar­ian with South Shore Pub­lic Li­braries, noted the im­por­tance of re­vi­tal­iz­ing the academy.

“We will def­i­nitely help liven it up and give it a new lease on life. We’ll be look­ing at new part­ner­ships with the or­ga­ni­za­tions that are al­ready there. It is start­ing to be­come what we’re call­ing a cul­tural hub,” said Mercer.

And the academy isn’t the only build­ing in town that has been re­vi­tal­ized in the name of lit­er­a­ture.

A plaque on the ex­te­rior of Lex­i­con Books has been placed to com­mem­o­rate its time as the block shop of Al­fred Dauphi­nee and Sons. The build­ing was con­structed in 1925 and was va­cated by Arthur Dauphi­nee, who was

also a block maker, in 1985.

Walk­ing into Lex­i­con Books, some of the old beams and bricks are still vis­i­ble, adding a charm to the place for Bur­dick.

“It feels kind of mag­i­cal. It makes sense that these build­ings are go­ing through dif­fer­ent it­er­a­tions,” she said. “I love the fact that this build­ing was a block­house. Gi­ant pieces of wood were in here be­ing pro­cessed. It’s craft, it’s art, it’s in­tel­li­gence. I like these changes.”

Lunen­burg Bound also sits in a his­tor­i­cal build­ing, oc­cu­py­ing the space where Power Brothers Plumb­ing and Heat­ing for­merly stood.

Hig­gins said his shop also bears wit­ness to the in­dus­trial past of the town but Lunen­burg has been re­ally thought­ful about its past and its place in his­tory.

Com­mu­nity

Given the town’s bud­ding lit­er­ary in­ter­ests, South Shore Pub­lic Li­braries CEO Troy My­ers saw an op­por­tu­nity to launch the Lunen­burg Lit Fes­ti­val. En­ter­ing its third year, the fes­ti­val is sched­uled to take place on Sept. 28 and 29. My­ers said the event, which highlights writ­ers and lo­cal sto­ries, is a fun, re­laxed en­vi­ron­ment — a per­fect fit for Lunen­burg.

“I think it’s the his­tory, it’s the ar­chi­tec­ture. There’s a real sense of com­mu­nity in Lunen­burg,” he said.

And the pub­lic has taken no­tice. My­ers noted that most of the tick­ets have been sold and that there is never an is­sue get­ting vol­un­teers. Mercer also said that the previous two ren­di­tions of the fes­ti­val were suc­cess­ful and it is the type of ac­tiv­ity the pub­lic ex­pects from their lo­cal li­brary.

“We’re a place for peo­ple to gather and meet. We’re a com­mu­nity cen­tre,” he said.

The town’s sense of com­mu­nity was on dis­play when the li­brary or­ga­nized vol­un­teers to form a hu­man chain to help move books up to the academy. Bur­dick agrees, cit­ing that the peo­ple are en­gaged in their com­mu­nity.

“These are peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in what’s go­ing on around them,” she said.

To sa­ti­ate this in­ter­est, Lex­i­con Books holds au­thor read­ings and sign­ings through­out the year and they are of­ten well-at­tended. Hig­gins said he also feels that peo­ple are en­gaged.

“It’s a part of a com­mu­nity and Lunen­burg is blessed right now with a strong com­mu­nity. It speaks vol­umes about a com­mu­nity that is pas­sion­ate about knowl­edge and (its) ac­cess to books,” he said.

Be­tween the li­brary, the lit­er­ary fes­ti­val and the book­shops, Lunen­burg has es­tab­lished a bur­geon­ing lit­er­ary cul­ture.

And ac­cord­ing to Hig­gins, this growth is nec­es­sary for the sur­vival of a place that si­mul­ta­ne­ously has a foot in the past and the present.

“If you re­mem­ber the Ivany Re­port, if there is a fu­ture for ru­ral Nova Sco­tia — and I cer­tainly be­lieve that there is — it is about peo­ple do­ing in­ter­est­ing things on a smaller scale.”

Josh Healey

The new Lunen­burg branch of the South Shore Pub­lic Li­braries’ will be in the his­toric Academy and is ex­pected to open later this sum­mer.

Josh Healey

A plaque com­mem­o­rates the old Block Shop, now home to Lex­i­con books, which was built in 1925 and helped to serve Lunen­burg’s fish­ing fleet.

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