heritage

Town History and Background

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Initially mapped and named by Samuel de Champlain in 1604, Cape le Heve was the first place he sighted in North America, and the first capital of New France from 1632-1636. Isaac de Razilly led an expedition to establish a permanent civilian colony in Acadia in 1632, after Acadia was returned to French control. He chose le Heve. Land was cleared, houses built, livestock imported, and settlers arrived in 1634. These French settlers at LeHave, Foreign Protestants at Lunenburg (1753) and subsequent British colonists have all influenced the development of our town.

However, three centuries of European settlement represent a small segment of time when compared to the nearly 60 centuries of Mi'kmaq settlement on the banks of "Pitjinoiskog", the LaHave River.

Bridgewater, located a protective 15 miles inland, was an ideal settlement location. The numerous streams in the area provided ample power for the operation of industrial mills to harvest the hemlock and pine.

The first house recorded on the west side was built by Ralph Hotchkiss in 1812, at the site of the corner of King and Phoenix Streets. The oldest home still standing in Bridgewater is the "Ramey House", on the east side, perhaps built before the turn of the 19th century. Even then, these two emerging settlements were not joined by a bridge until about 1825.

The Confederation period saw the settlement at Bridgewater develop schools, industries, newspapers, and a fire brigade. Before the turn of this century, the town was being serviced by a regular stagecoach, steamship, a railroad center and a Board of Trade.

In January 1899, this growth was dealt a blow by the "Big Fire" which completely destroyed the downtown core. One month later, the community came together as an Incorporated Town. Five months later, a new streetscape greeted visitors to downtown Bridgewater.

After WWI, the growth of industry, automobiles, pavement and public transit made Bridgewater a town in which many people of today would feel at home.

Post WWII saw our town develop improved recreational facilities, including hockey, figure skating, tennis, curling, golf and baseball. A new park, home to new facilities for the DesBrisay Museum, added to the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

How Bridgewater Got Its Name

Bridgewater is nestled in the LaHave River Valley. Tree covered slopes and fertile drumlin hills made this an ideal location for settlement to grow and prosper.

There is no record of an event or point of reference as to how this community was named. It is located at the head of navigation at the first point where a bridge was erected to cross the river. It is deduced that the community got its name from being the place where the water was bridged.

At least five bridges have spanned the LaHave at Bridgewater. DesBrisay reports the first bridge having been built about 1825. In 1845, a draw bridge was constructed. Even though there were shipyards up river from the bridge, it is alleged that the bridge was never raised.

In 1869, the bridge was replaced with another wooden bridge. Late in 1891, the first iron bridge was constructed along the north end of the wooden bridge. Although repaired in 1971, when ice took out the east end section, this bridge "built to last 100 years" is still in use in 1999.

Veteran's Memorial Bridge, a concrete structure was constructed up river from the "old bridge" in 1983.

Bridgewater Timeline

1765 22,000 acres on west side granted to Pernette 
c1765 Land granted on east side
1796 Land purchased, Wiles, north end, west side
1812 First recorded house. west side
c1810 Land purchased, Hebbs, south end, west side
c1825 First bridge across LaHave River
1832 First free school
1858 Mail service and first road from Halifax, via Mahone Bay
1863 First local newspaper
c1865 E.D. Davison Lumber Manufacturers
1874 Town lot surveyed, west side
1876 Fire Brigade formed
c1880 DesBrisay opens private museum
1888 Bridgewater Bulletin founded
1889 First train to town, from Middleton and Tennis Club formed
1891 Old Bridge constructed (4th)
1892 Agricultural exhibition established, Music Hall constructed, and Power company formed
1893 "Controversial" courthouse erected
1899 The "Big Fire" (January 12)
1899 Town incorporates on February 13
1901 East side surveyed into town lot
1902 Town acquires DesBrisay Museum
1907 Curling club founded
1917 LaHave Motorized Transport operated
1920 Main Street paved
1919/20 Original "Dawson Memorial" Hospital erected (used from 1920 - 1966)
1947 CKBW radio officially goes on air, December 24th
1948 Hockey Rink constructed
1960 12 King Street businesses lost to fire
1964 Figure skating club formed
1965 "Old Home Week"
1965/66 New/Replacement "Dawson Memorial" Hospital erected (used from 1966 - 1988)
1971  Michelin Tire Plant opens in Industrial Park October 15, employing up to 1,100 people in Lunenburg County
1983 Veterans' Memorial Bridge opens to traffic
1988 South Shore Regional Hospital opened (on a new site, across the LaHave River - still in use)
1994 Shelter erected for Farmers' Market
1998 Shipyard's Landing Park developed on former Acadia Gas Engines site, south end King Street
1999 Bridgewater celebrates its centennial
2004 Mariners' Landing Park opens, south end of LaHave Street
2005 Veterans' Memorial Park dedicated August 14, during the Year of the Veteran, corner of York & Victoria
2006 Bridgewater Fire Department erects new Bandstand at Shipyard's Landing Park, south King Street
2009 New Bridgewater Justice Centre opens on High Street
2009 Saturday Farmer's Market rejuvinated on King Street
2010 New Post Office opens on North Street
2010 CKBW and HANK FM move to North Street
2010 Sperry Park opens at the corner of Pine and King Streets
2010 Aberdeen Green Park (Hodge Podge Community Garden) opens on Elm Street and Aberdeen
2010 Electric fountain installed in river between the two bridges
2010 King Street Court undergoes improvements
2010 14 historical interpretive panels installed along town's river front
2012 16 historical banners installed along riverfront streets
2012 Brookside Cemetery is designated a municipal designated heritage property
2012 Town installs shared bicycle lanes
2013 Wile Carding Mill Museum designated a municipal designated heritage property
2013 Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre opens on North Park Street
2014 Town of Bridgewater celebrates 115 years of incorporation on February 13
2014 Bridgewater Marina opens on LaHave Street on July 17
2014 Wile Carding Mill celebrates 40 years as a provincial Museum


Visit DesBrisay Museum for more information on the history of Bridgewater!