Bridgewater, Nova Scotia
A postcard showing King Street
Main Street of the South Shore
|Incorporated||February 13, 1899|
|• Body||Bridgewater Town Council|
|• Mayor||David Mitchell|
|• CAO||Tammy Crowder|
|• MLA||Mark Furey (L)|
|• MP||Bernadette Jordan (L)|
|• Town||13.61 km2 (5.25 sq mi)|
|• Urban||13.63 km2 (5.26 sq mi)|
|22.11 m (72.54 ft)|
|• Density||625.9/km2 (1,621/sq mi)|
|• Urban density||630/km2 (1,600/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC−4 (AST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−3 (ADT)|
|Area code(s)||902 & 782|
|Telephone Exchange||212, 298, 521, 523, 527, 529, 530, 541, 543, 553|
|Highways|| Hwy 103|
Bridgewater is a town in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, Canada, at the navigable limit of the LaHave River. With a population of 8,532 as of 2016, Bridgewater is the largest town in the South Shore region.
Priding itself as "The Main Street of the South Shore," Bridgewater has long been established as the primary commercial and professional service centre in the southern half of the province. The community boasts a diverse local economy, as well as larger national and international employers.
The first European settlers of the town came from the nearby settlements of Lunenburg, Riverport and LaHave, constructing the first house around 1810 on the west bank of the river (although the first house in what is now the town was built before 1803).
The town was named after the bridge built over the LaHave River. The commissioners for the construction of the first bridge were three brothers-in-law, George Heb, John Weil and John Vienot.
The town was incorporated on February 13, 1899, one month after the Great Commercial Street Fire, which devastated the downtown core of the community, destroying buildings along both sides of what would become King Street for more than half a kilometre. The fire, which occurred on the night of January 12, 1899, is believed to have begun in the basement of the old music hall, located at what would, today, be the intersection of King and Dominion Streets.
For much of the 20th century, the town's economy depended on forestry and a large wood mill in the center of town, as well as the Nova Scotia Central Railway and later the Halifax and Southwestern Railway, for which the town acted as a central hub for the South Shore region. The Acadia Marine Engine Company was based in Bridgewater and it made fish boat and coaster engines.
A period of some stagnation occurred beginning in the mid-1950s until a new Michelin plant opened within town limits in the early 1970s, providing employment for some 1,000 people. The abandoned passenger train station burnt to the ground in the early 1980s, shortly after a revitalization plan was announced. Freight rail service continued to the town until the early 1990s when Canadian National Railway abandoned the line and the tracks were removed. The rail yard property on the east bank of the LaHave River is now occupied by the Bridgewater Mall (now known as the South Shore Centre) and various retail businesses.
Since the 1990s, the town has tried with some success to come up with solutions for problems that have crippled other areas of the Maritime provinces: economic decline and an aging population. Encouraging Bridgewater's growth as a commercial and professional services centre, promoting artistic, athletic, and environmentally conscious initiatives, and refreshing aging municipal infrastructure has helped to strengthen the community's position in the early 21st century.
Bridgewater is split in two by the LaHave River, with the majority of the town's land area situated on the western bank of the river. The town spans the LaHave River Valley and is dominated by hills that lead down to the river. Elevation ranges from 5 metres above sea level (at the river), to nearly 110 m at the highest point at the former Olde Towne Golf Course (now slated for a housing development) on the southwestern limit of the town. The surrounding area is characterized by rolling drumlins formed during the last glacial period, some of which reach 150 m above sea level. There are also several streams which empty into the river. The LaHave River is traversed by two bridges in the centre of the town, and a 103 highway overpass and a foot bridge (formerly a railway crossing) towards the northern limits.
On a basic level, the town is split in two by the LaHave River. The western bank of the river was the area first developed more than 200 years ago. Today it remains the most heavily populated part of the town and is home to the Bridgewater Industrial Park (where Michelin is located) and most other civic amenities. The eastern bank of the river was home, for many years, to a large lumber yard and train station. This area developed rapidly in the last quarter of the 20th century with the arrival of the Bridgewater Mall and a large subdivision. Today, this area remains the commercial heart of the town and the centre of population growth. In the 2011 census, the eastern side of town held 37% of the total population, up from 33% in 2006. Compared to the previous census, the population of the western side of town declined 2%, while the eastern side increased by 16%.
There are few distinctive neighbourhoods in the town, and most designations rely solely on subdivision names. The Pinecrest Subdivision and low income housing centered along Marie Avenue remain the only major large-scale residential development on the western side of the town in the last 25 years, while the eastern flank has seen rapid growth, including the Glen Allan Subdivision, and two large mobile home parks. Most of these areas, however, are built-out, so development is now spilling out into the county. Just outside the town's limits, Hebbville has seen the development of the now older Catidian Place and the much more recent Botany Lane, while bordering Conquerall Bank is hosting the still-growing Meadowbrook Subdivision, arguably the most upscale development in the Bridgewater area although lack of paved roads negates a lot of the positives for the community. The Cookville area also continues to see growth in the Osprey Ridge area. With the exception of Glen Allan, most new residential developments within town limits are the result of urban infill.
Bridgewater experiences a humid continental climate, as does most of eastern Canada. The South Shore's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean influences the climate to a significant degree, such that the region is usually somewhat milder than most of Canada during the winter months. Nevertheless, winters are generally cold, damp and generally overcast with snowfall occurring often, as well as frequent rain. Summers, while usually less extreme than inland central Canada, are warm to hot and generally quite humid, accented by occasional storms and showers. Autumn and spring are often wildly unpredictable, and snowfall as early as the first week of October is not unheard of.
Because it lies inland from the ocean, it is usually warmer than coastal Nova Scotia during the summer, and reports far fewer foggy days.
|Climate data for Bridgewater, 1981–2019 normals, extremes 1961–present|
|Record high °C (°F)||19.5
|Average high °C (°F)||−0.1
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−5.2
|Average low °C (°F)||−10.4
|Record low °C (°F)||−32.0
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||143.7
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||86.2
|Average snowfall cm (inches)||57.5
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm)||14.8||13.0||13.8||14.9||15.2||13.1||12.2||11.4||12.2||14.3||16.0||15.3||166.2|
|Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm)||7.8||7.3||9.8||14.1||15.2||13.1||12.2||11.4||12.2||14.3||14.8||10.9||143.1|
|Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm)||10.0||8.3||6.8||2.6||0.16||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.04||2.3||7.0||37.2|
|Source: Environment Canada|
In the 2016 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, the Town of Bridgewater recorded a population of 8,532 living in 4,077 of its 4,299 total private dwellings, a change of 3.5% from its 2011 population of 8,241. With a land area of 13.63 km2 (5.26 sq mi), it had a population density of 626.0/km2 (1,621.3/sq mi) in 2016.
While most smaller centres in Nova Scotia have experienced economic and population declines in the last 30 years, Bridgewater is one of the only locations in Nova Scotia outside Halifax County that showed consistent population growth over the span of the 20th century. While the population of many Nova Scotia communities is lower now than in 1951 (including Sydney, New Glasgow, Amherst and Yarmouth, among others), Bridgewater has more than doubled its population during that time. There was a strong boom in population between 1961 and 1981 in particular, this reflecting the arrival of Michelin tire plant in the community.
Like many communities in Nova Scotia, the population of Bridgewater has aged considerably over the last several censuses. As of the 2016 census, the average age of a resident was 46.8 years, one year younger than the surrounding county, but more than three years older than the province as a whole.
In 2006, 3.9% of town residents classified themselves as immigrants, most having immigrated before 1991. 1.4% of the population listed French as their mother tongue, while 6.3% considered themselves bilingual. 2.3% listed another language as their mother tongue. 53.3% of the population was female, a figure nearly two percent higher than the province as a whole.
Culture and heritage promotion has seen a renaissance in Bridgewater in recent years. While the community is known for its commercial offerings and is generally accepted as being less tourism-driven compared to its municipal neighbours Lunenburg and Mahone Bay,
However, the town boasts a number of unique cultural events, including the annual Bridgewater Garden Party hosted at the DesBrisay Museum, Christmas on the LaHave, the Growing Green Sustainability Festival, and Afterglow Art Festival. The largest annual festival is the South Shore Exhibition, which dates to 1891. The "Big Ex," as it is locally known, is a week-long agricultural fair that is held each July, attracting around 50,000 people. While honoring the area's agricultural heritage, the Big Ex also includes multiple nights of live entertainment on the South Shore Exhibition Grounds. One of its traditional featured events is the International Ox Pull, bringing together teams come from the Maritimes and the Northeastern United States.
Community music has been a part of Bridgewater's heritage for almost a century and a half. The Bridgewater Fire Department Band has been a fixture in the town since 1868. The South Shore Chorale, a seventy-voice mixed chorus, has been active since the 1960s. For many years, the Hospital Chorus and Drama Society (now defunct) helped to raise funds for the Dawson Memorial Hospital (later South Shore Regional Hospital) through its production of Broadway-style musicals.
In 2014, the Art Happening was established to create a thriving community art space in Bridgewater. Inspired by the 'Art Hive' movement in Montreal, the group of motivated and enthusiastic community members developed the idea of a free/low cost art building focused on creativity for people of all ages and backgrounds. Today, Art Happening is a not-for-profit organization that strives on fun classes, stress relief, and creativity in all shapes and forms.
Like much of Lunenburg County, many of Bridgewater's residents can trace their lineage back to the Foreign Protestants who arrived in Nova Scotia 18th century. While much of that original culture has been lost, a few remnants remain. Lunenburg pudding, a type of pork sausage, is still widely available, and some residents still speak in an accent unique to the county, dubbed Lunenburg English, featuring one of the few non-rhotic speech patterns remaining in Canada.
Education and health
The town is primarily served by Bridgewater Elementary and Bridgewater Junior Senior High Schools, both located on York Street, near downtown. These aging facilities manage to serve the needs of the town's youth, but lack near-by athletic fields. Park View Education Centre, located at the northern edge of the town, serves grades 10-12 and takes part in the International Baccalaureate program. This facility mainly acts as a collector school for students from the rural areas of the county, although some Bridgewater residents do attend as well. Centre Scolaire de la Rive-Sud, opened in 2010 in Cookville (just outside the town limits) is a French education school, part of Nova Scotia's Acadian school system (CSAP - Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial), offering a primarily French-language education to Francophone families in the area. The Lunenburg campus of the Nova Scotia Community College is located on High Street, sharing space with the local YMCA. The town also has two provincial museums, The DesBrisay and the Wile Carding Mill, and a central library.
According to the 2001 census, of the town's population between ages 20–64, 24.3% had not received a high school diploma while 56% had received at least some sort of post secondary degree or certificate. Both figures were slightly better than the average for Nova Scotia (25.3% and 54%, respectively), and significantly better than the larger Lunenburg County (30.1% and 50.9%) and neighbouring Queens County (37% and 42%).
Bridgewater is served by the South Shore Regional Hospital located on Glen Allen Drive. This facility, inaugurated in 1988, replaced the 1960s-era Dawson Memorial Hospital located on the south western side of the town. The SSRH serves as the major hospital in the county and offers most standard services.
Industry and employment
Most employment in the town is in the commercial and professional service sector, although tire-manufacturer Michelin remains by far the single largest employer. The town's second largest employer is Millennium 1 Solutions, a call-centre, and other major employers are South Shore Health, Atlantic Superstore, Sobeys and Walmart.
In 2005, the average earnings for all census families was $49,754, more than $4,500 below the provincial average. For married couples, this figure was $56,275, and for single parents, it was $26,362.
While the town has no local television stations, it is served by CKBW-FM radio, an award-winning broadcaster, CJHK-FM and Lighthouse Publishing, which operates a popular media portal. CKBW, established in 1947, gave acclaimed actor Donald Sutherland his start in the media at age 14 while he was living in the town. The CKBW News team has received two regional RTNDA Awards and has been a finalist for an Atlantic Journalism Award. CKBW-FM has shifted its music focus several times over the past two decades, and now airs mostly contemporary pop music. It recently began operating sister-station Hank-FM, which airs country and western style music. The weekly Lighthouse Now (formerly Bridgewater Bulletin) has been in publication since 1888 and had won numerous awards for its content and lay-out. The company also distributes the Lighthouse Log, a free weekend paper.
Parks and recreation
After a period of stagnation, recreation facilities in the town have undergone a modernization in recent years.
In 2008, construction began on the HB Studios Sports Centre, known locally as "The Fieldhouse," a $1.7 million indoor turf, track, and amenities facility located on Glen Allan Drive.
In 2013, the town and Municipality of Lunenburg teamed up to construct an additional multi-purpose facility, the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre (LCLC) on North Park Street. That facility features the Clearwater Seafoods Arena (seating capacity for hockey is 1,200), the BMO Aquatic Centre, and the Margaret Hennigar Public Library.
Following the opening of the LCLC, Bridgewater ceased operations at the 65-year-old Bridgewater Memorial Arena in 2015. The Town of Bridgewater also continues to operate an outdoor swimming pool during the summer months on Jubilee Road, located near the DesBrisay Museum.
In terms of other outdoor facilities, the town is home to the Kinsmen Field (a soccer/football field, baseball diamond), the LaHave baseball/softball/soccer fields on Glen Allen Drive, the Bridgewater Curling Club, and the Bridgewater Tennis Club.
Residents of Bridgewater enjoy a relatively extensive parks system, which the town estimates at 100 acres (0.40 km2). This, however, does not include open green space within the town, the inclusion of which would give a much higher total.
The crown jewel of the parks system continues to be the 25-acre (100,000 m2) Woodland Gardens, locally known at the "Duck Pond." This park includes the DesBrisay Museum, one of the town's public swimming pools, a large pond and various trails. Shipyards Landing is a large public park located at the reclaimed site of the former Acadia Gas Engine Company. Situated on south King Street along the LaHave River, the area features berthing for boaters and kayakers, picnic and open space, and is often used as a gathering point for festivals, such as Canada on the LaHave.
Other parks include Pinecrest and Glen Allen, both playgrounds, and Riverview Park, overlooking the rapids of the LaHave River. The system also includes smaller parks, such as King Street Court and Pijinuiskaq Park, located in the heart of the downtown, as well as the eight kilometre Centennial Trail, which was constructed on abandoned rail lines.
In July 2017, the town opened the South Shore Vet Doz Zone (off-leash park) at Generations Active Park, 18 acres of dedicated parkland near HB Studios Sports Centre. The dog park is the first in a multi-year, multi-phase plan to develop the Generations Active Park lands for recreational use by town residents and visitors.
The LaHave River was the main transportation route in historic times, though today it is mainly used for pleasure craft and recreational boating. A cable ferry located in LaHave is the only crossing downriver from Bridgewater. The Halifax and Southwestern Railway once passed through the town but the line is now abandoned. The main road serving the town is Highway 103, which has two primary exits entering the town. Trunk highways 10 and 3 meet at Bridgewater. Other provincial highways are Route 325 and Route 331.
As the town continues to grow, traffic flow and congestion is of concern. Complicating matters is that Bridgewater draws on a number of satellite communities and, on any given day, Bridgewater's functional population doubles from 8,200 to between 16,000 and 20,000 because of the volume of people from the surrounding areas who come to the town to work, shop, and play. The town's geography and two bridge crossings within town limits also can amplify traffic disruption when construction work forces the temporary closure of one of the main routes.
A public transit pilot for the town began operating in the fall of 2017. The initiative was made permanent in 2019 as the popularity of the service exceeded expectations. Feasibility studies into public transit between Bridgewater, Lunenburg and Mahone Bay have occurred. Taxi service is available and rates are set at a fixed price of $6 for travel between any two points within town limits.
Bridgewater is known as the "Main Street of the South Shore" and has always been the shopping centre of Lunenburg County and, to a lesser extent, Queens County as well. The town's core features a unique combination of traditional, locally owned shops and services on the west bank of the LaHave River (King Street) and a mix of larger, modern box stores on the east bank of the river (LaHave Street).
The Bridgewater Mall, first developed in the 1970s, replaced an old rail yard, and continues to be a strong part of the commercial heart of the town. There was a major renovation of the area in the 1980s, which the addition of Eastside Plaza, and after the Bridgewater Mall properties were sold by Crombie Properties to Zenda Group in 2011, the new owners carried out a $9 million renovation of the mall, in the process bringing a number of new, high-profile tenants, including Sport Chek, and Winners. The Bridgewater Mall also features Sobey's as an anchor tenant at the south end of the site, as well as Cineplex/ and the Atlantic Superstore are located nearby on the LaHave Street side of downtown.
The Gateway (Bridgewater) Plaza, located in the southern area of town near the Nova Scotia Community College, continues to thrive despite a changing landscape. While Kmart closed in the mid-1990s and Canadian Tire relocated to Cookville in 2006, the plaza underwent a renovation and is now anchored by discount grocery chain No Frills and Giant Tiger, both of which opened in 2010. The No Frills location was previously a Save Easy and before that an IGA, and has been in continual operation as a grocery store for nearly 50 years despite the name changes.
The South Shore Mall, located on the eastern edge of town, once home to a movie theatre, grocery and department store, had been completely abandoned by the late 1990s and had been slated for redevelopment as a convention centre, hotel, apartment buildings and shops, although no progress has occurred on the site as of mid-2019.
Redevelopment of King Street
In 2012, Town Council commission a study into the potential redevelopment of King Street as a more community focused center. Released in 2013, the Downtown and Waterfront Master Plan (DWMP) is a 100-plus page document designed to guide the economic and social development of Downtown Bridgewater over the next 20 to 30 years.
The first phase of implementing the DWMP began in 2015 with the demolition of the South Parkade. The 45-year-old steel and concrete structure was removed and, during 2016, a major infrastructure project was undertaken in the Old Bridge-to-Dufferin block of King Street.
The project, known as Take Back The Riverbank, included three main components: first, the removal and replacement of existing decades-old water and sewer infrastructure below King Street; second, the reconstruction of the street, including the introduction of better sidewalks, curb bump outs, and street furniture, all designed to make the downtown more pedestrian friendly; and, the construction of Pijinuiskaq Park along the riverbank on the former parkade site. Pijinuiskaq is the historic Mi'kmaq name for the LaHave River.
In 2016, Bridgewater Town Council agreed to grant $51,000 to allow for the creation of the Bridgewater Facade Improvement Society. The Society oversees a Facade Improvement Program, which invites commercial tenants or property owners in the King Street Architectural Control Area to apply for matching funding of up to $5,000 in matching funding for facade improvement projects. The program covers improvements ranging from painting to signage, lighting, and more.
Official crime statistics are not available for Bridgewater. Violent crime is rare and most crime stems from petty property damage, and drug offenses. The highest profile crime to occur in the town took place in 2008 with the murder of 12-year-old Karissa Boudreau, a crime for which her mother was eventually convicted. The Bridgewater Police Service, as well as recently relocating to a new, modern facility, has moved towards community based policing, working closely with Neighbourhood Watch programs and local schools, as well as adding foot and bicycle patrols in areas that squad cars are unable to reach.
The Bridgewater Police Service is governed by the Bridgewater Police Commission. This is made up of both political and citizen appointees. The current chair of the Board of Police Commissioners is Citizen Representative Patrick D. Cappello.
- Jeffrey Arenburg - paranoid schizophrenic who shot and killed sportscaster Brian Smith in Ottawa
- Carroll Baker - Country and Western singing star
- Allan Blakeney - Premier of Saskatchewan
- Chaylon Brewster - ECMA winning music producer
- Robert MacGregor Dawson - political scientist
- John Dunsworth - actor
- Sarah E. Dunsworth - actor
- Sheila A. Hellstrom - first woman to graduate from Canadian Forces College, and the first woman Regular Force member to achieve the rank of Brigadier-General
- Jenna Martin - track and field athlete
- Dutch Mason - Blues recording artist and performer
- Glen Murray - NHL hockey player
- Donald Sutherland - actor
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- Bridgewater Elementary School
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