Description of Historic Place
The Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church is a large wooden church with a stone and concrete foundation. It borders Fox, York and Cornwallis Streets on a slight slope in Old Town Lunenburg, a Heritage Conservation District in Lunenburg, NS. It has a tall steeple at the Fox Street corner, with a second tower at the southwest corner of the building and green space at the western side of the building. The York Street façade has an addition at its western end. Designation includes the building and surrounding property.
Described as the 'Rock of Lutheranism,' the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church is valued as the home of Canada's oldest Lutheran congregation. As well, it is valued as an architectural landmark in Old Town Lunenburg, with a steeple that can be seen for kilometers. When German Lutheran settlers first arrived in 1753, the settlers held services in the open air and later at St. John's Anglican Church. The first church on this site was built in 1772 and replaced in 1841 with a Gothic structure. The only remains of the first Lutheran church are the key to the building and the Saint Antoine-Marie bell that had formerly hung in the Fortress of Louisbourg (a French fort located on Cape Breton Island), and had been purchased by the congregation in 1776.
The present building dates from 1890 and was designed in the High Victorian Gothic style. The church's long nave runs the length of the block on Cornwallis Street, with an ornately decorated gable end on Fox Street. The dentil courses and stained glass windows are among the most noticeable elements of the nave. Two asymmetrical towers flank the front façade, each with a different design. The larger one has a pointed arch doorway oriented to the corner of Fox and Cornwallis Streets, and mullioned lancet windows on the upper storeys. It also has a tall spire housing the bell, which is highly visible from many points in Lunenburg, including the harbour approaches. The second tower is pyramidal with windows of various shapes and sizes, making it appealing to the eye. The large hall to the rear of the church was added in 1946 and serves as a meeting place and Sunday school.
The commanding scale and vertical composition of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church speak to the fundamental importance of the Lutheran congregation in Lunenburg from its settlement to the present day.
Source: Heritage Designation File 66400-40-27, Town of Lunenburg.
The character of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church is defined by its use by the Lunenburg Lutheran community and its High Victorian Gothic architecture, including such elements as:
- vertical composition and large scale of the building, suggesting prominence in the community, and accentuated with a highly visible, asymmetrical façade and spire;
- location on a hill overlooking Old Town Lunenburg, and in close proximity to the streetline and neighbouring homes, suggesting a close knit relationship with the community;
- two towers at either end of the front façade; the western one with circular and lancet windows and a short, pyramidal tower with a finial and louvred gablet ; the other with a tall spire, the main entranceway, small louvred gablets on each side, and lancet windows on each storey;
- Saint Antoine-Marie bell housed in the taller tower;
- use of contrasting window styles on the whole building, including large stained glass windows and gothic windows on the nave, a triangular attic window with curved edges in the gable end, ascending paired mullion windows in the spire tower, an 'oculus' window and mullion windows in the shorter tower, and arched transom windows over the entranceways;
- strongly defined entranceways, one with a set of brick steps leading up to it in the southeastern tower, the other at ground level in the southwestern tower; both have double hung doors and pointed arch transom windows that draw in the viewer;
- wooden clapboard cladding, with dentil courses at each storey, moulded wooden belt courses and steep gable roof, which is echoed in the smaller gable roofs over the large windows at the sides of the nave, smaller entrances and the hall at the rear;
- Artemus Hall located at the northern end of the church, that was added in 1946, used as a community centre for the congregation, with a roof and window design that echoes the nave and demonstrates the unity of the community centre and the actual place of worship.