In 1749 handbills were posted throughout Europe encouraging emigration to the New World, and over 2,700 "Foreign Protestants" responded to the offer and emigrated to Nova Scotia. Most came from the Upper Rhine area of present-day Germany, from the French and German-speaking Swiss cantons and from the French-speaking principality of Montbeliard. They arrived in Halifax and remained there under British protection, working on the fortifications in order to pay off the cost of their passage.

In 1753, just prior to embarking for Lunenburg, the males old enough to qualify as landholders assembled in St. Paul's Church, Halifax, where they drew for lots in the new community. Playing cards were used, each card being marked with the number and division name for a plot of land within the town. The town was divided into 6 divisions, each named after one of the newly appointed local officers. Each division had 8 blocks and each block was divided into 14 town lots of 60 ft. by 40 ft. The original layout of the Old Town has remained unchanged and contains some of the best-preserved wooden houses in Canada dating from the 18th century.

The proposed town to be developed was named Lunenburg, in honour of King George II, Duke of Brunschweig-Luneburg. On 8 June, 1753, the first settlers landed at Rous' Brook. Some 1,453 men, women and children began the daunting task of building their new lives. Coming from countries where free-hold land was virtually impossible to own, they were dazed by the possibilities which now opened before them.

Since the arrival of these first settlers, Lunenburg has re-invented itself many times over. A resilient community, its past has been shaped entirely by the dialogue between land and sea. The evolution has been on-going from farming to fishing to shipbuilding to fish exporting, and now to heritage tourism. In 1995 Old Town Lunenburg was designated a UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. Capitalizing on its unique location and character, its outstanding built heritage and cultural legacy, Lunenburg has emerged with both an old and a new identity complete with international recognition and a fresh lease on life in the 21st century.

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