Apr 04, 2023 / by Folk Harbour / No Comments

April 4, 2023: For immediate release

Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society receives Provincial support for
Planning and Development of the Lunenburg Opera House

LUNENBURG – The Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society kicked its Spring Concert Series off last Friday with a sold-out performance by hometown favourite Joel Plaskett The event was also the opportunity to announce that the Society will receive provincial funding in the amount of $245,000 to support planning and development of the Lunenburg Opera House.

Lunenburg MLA Susan Corkum-Greek joined members of the Folk Harbour Society Board on Friday to
announce the funding, which will be used for the next phase of architectural, engineering, and other
professional services required to update the century-old landmark located in the center of the town. The
Society’s vision is to restore, renovate and revitalize the Opera House as a musical and performing arts centre that will serve the community well into the next century. “I know what Folk Harbour brings to Lunenburg and all of Nova Scotia, and I’ve always believed the Opera House should be a key venue within our exceptional cultural scene,” remarked Corkum-Greek. “I am looking forward to seeing how the Folk Harbour Society will develop the Opera House as a year-round performance space.”

Speaking for the Folk Harbour Society, Vice-President Tom McFall thanked MLA Corkum-Greek for this
investment in the Opera House. “These funds will make it possible to bring the professional expertise needed to ensure that the Opera House will become the incredible cultural asset we envision,” added McFall.

McFall has been leading the Folk Harbour Society through a concept development process since the Opera House was acquired by the Society in 2020. This has included multiple workshops, discussion groups and a number of community consultations that collectively identified over 600 ideas for future uses of the Opera House.

McFall’s team has also conducted initial work with architects and engineers to identify multiple structural
deficiencies and needs for the building’s modernization of electrical, plumbing and heating. The planned
installation of an elevator will ensure accessibility for all users on every floor and environmental
improvements, high-efficiency energy systems, new heating and cooling equipment, and possible rooftop
solar collectors are all in the preliminary plans.

“Even though considerable work has been done in the past, mostly to the exterior of the building, much
remains to be done to ensure that the Opera House comfortably accommodates all users on a year-round
basis,” added McFall. “We completed some early architectural and engineering work in 2022, providing us
with a building condition report and concept plans. The funds received today from the province will make it possible to start on in-depth plans for the actual redevelopment of the entire building. We are deeply
appreciative of the province’s support for this work,” added McFall.

This next phase is expected to commence immediately and will be completed by the end of 2023.

About the Lunenburg Opera House

  • Designed along European theatre lines, the Lunenburg Opera House was built in 1907-08 by the
    Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The Opera House operated successfully as a concert hall for several decades until gradually adapting to silent films, then films with sound and colour. World War II was a high point for Opera House use when newsreels and war films attracted large nightly audiences. Then film use declined. From the 1970s into the 2000s, two subsequent owners attempted to produce live theatre and then commercial music events. Both owners started renovations and new programming, but these private ventures eventually weren’t sustainable, partly due to the declining condition of the building.
  • The Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society acquired the Lunenburg Opera House in 2019 with partial funds provided through a gift from the Fordi Family Foundation. The following year, a gift from the Reibling Family enabled the Folk Harbour Society to complete the acquisition. Plans for its re-development have been ongoing.
  • Currently, the Lunenburg Opera House consists of a Main Hall with a balcony (300 seats) that is in use as a performance venue for nine months of the year. Current heating is inadequate for use during the coldest months of the year.
  • The lower level is an unfinished basement, and the current location for inadequate mechanical systems.
  • The top floor, once the location for the Oddfellows meetings, is a large, spectacular room with pressed-tin ceilings and a bank of windows that offer a panoramic view of the Lunenburg harbour. Once restored, both floors offer the Folk Harbour Society several possible uses as a meeting space, additional performance spaces and a variety of community uses.
  • Despite the current limitations of the Opera House, it is the preferred venue for Lunenburg DocFest,
    Maritime Concert Opera Society and other presenters in Lunenburg’s very considerable cultural scene.