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Lunenburg Academy investigating potential takeover of historic building

By Evan Taylor Apr 19, 2023 | 3:31 PM

The Lunenburg Academy is a National Historic Site. Photo: Government of Canada.

Lunenburg Academy, a three-story Victorian school building from the late 1890s and a National Historic Site, may be up for sale as the town of Lunenburg is struggling to keep up with its maintenance costs. Known as the “castle on the hill,” the building has been the icon of the town, with millions of dollars from provincial and federal funds going into renovations since 2012.

Last April, the town offered the building to the Lunenburg Academy Foundation (LAF), but the foundation wasn’t ready to take on the responsibility at the time. However, the LAF has since hired a consultant to do a feasibility study on whether the organization could handle the costs alone or with other community groups. The report is due back at the end of May.

LAF released financial details last week, showing that while the Academy had an operating shortfall of roughly $713,000 over the past 10 years, revenue has increased since it took on new tenants. At year-end 2022, revenues totaled $240,894 with expenses of $223,272, leaving a small surplus. The LAF also collected $1.5 million in a recent fundraising campaign, and gathered more than $200,000 specifically for its new Heritage Interpretive Classroom.

However, Rachel Bailey, the president of the LAF, said it’s “a huge ask” for a volunteer charitable organization to take on sole ownership of such a site, especially when it comes to staff, insurance, and buying power.

“I understand the town is facing financial pressure, but for us this came as a surprise so we need time to determine if it’s even feasible for us to do,” Bailey said.

The Lunenburg Academy has value beyond the community, Bailey added. “It’s important to the country because of what it demonstrates and the story it has to tell.”


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