This former Lunenburg inn takes residents back to Victorian times

(Photography by Sara Jewell.)

Every evening in summer, a group of superstitious souls assembles outside the imposing, blue and yellow-trimmed Georgian mansion at 15 King Street in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. The nightly Haunted Lunenburg walking tour begins here, where participants crane their necks toward the arched windows above the front door, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghostly spectre who is said to sometimes appear, gazing out forlornly.

Centrally located in Lunenburg’s historic old town, a UNESCO-designated world heritage site, 15 King makes for a fitting starting point for these nightly tours. The five-bed, six-bath, 4,880-square-foot property was built by attorney Charles Bolman to celebrate the 1831 coronation of King William IV, at the tail end of the Georgian era. It’s not only one of the most striking buildings in the area, but one of the oldest, having served for nearly two centuries as, variously, a private home, a doctor’s office, an apartment building, a rooming house, a restaurant, a nursing home and a bed and breakfast. It even served as the home of Lunenburg’s mayor, Sherman Zwicker, from 1971 to 1979.

Most recently, it served as the Mariner King Inn, a 14-room boutique hotel spread out across two additional buildings, owned by the family of Timothy Reibling, who grew up in Florida but visited his grandparents in Lunenburg every summer. Reibling’s parents, Susan and Guenther, purchased the property in 2007 with the intention of building a real estate portfolio of small hotels. For several years, they hired locals to run the inn until a medical incident brought Reibling back to the town for rest and recuperation. The stay was initially supposed to be temporary, but Reibling and his wife ended up managing the hotel’s daily operations. For a time, Reibling was involved in every aspect of the business. In the mornings, he’d work as a breakfast cook, serving pancakes, bacon and eggs to as many as 36 guests at a time. In the afternoons, he switched to the front desk, where he answered phone calls and checked guests in.

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Reibling decided it was time to move on, and closed the inn in October of 2022. His parents, who ran the real estate company that owns the building, passed away in 2020, and the additional workload became too much to manage. Plus, he and his wife had already decided to move somewhere warmer than Lunenburg’s chilly coastal climate. Reibling now resides in Sarasota, Florida, with his wife and two children.

The home itself is a masterpiece of Victorian architecture. Plenty of details from the original build remain intact, such as ornate handmade ceiling medallions and crown moulding. The doorknobs have been replaced with hotel key cards, and there’s a reception desk in the hallway, but little else would need to be changed to turn the inn back into a private residence. Reibling’s favourite aspect of the home is the majestic wooden spiral staircase in the front entrance leading up to the master suite. “Walking upstairs, you kind of feel like you’re going back in time,” he says.

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The building contains a regionally specific architectural detail: the alcove jutting out above the front doors is called a “Lunenburg bump,” where, according to local legend, fishermen’s wives would peer out the windows toward the ocean and wait for a glimpse of their husbands’ boats headed back to shore. (It’s not dissimilar from the concept of a widow’s walk, a railed rooftop platform built on coastal homes that once served a similar purpose.)

Several upgrades have been made since 2007 to bring the property into the 21st century. The wood-burning fireplaces have been replaced with electric ones. The antique windows have been replaced with energy-efficient ones. The roof was replaced last year. Many reminders of the past remain, though. The hallways, Reibling points out, might feel unusually narrow for someone more accustomed to modern builds.

Over the years, 15 King Street has been home to several paranormal sightings. “We’ve had various staff members claim they’ve seen ghosts or experienced various supernatural phenomena,” Reibling says. One staff member was working late and saw a flash of light and heard a door slam. “We spent the next morning trying to watch what happened on the security cameras,” he says. “I cannot attest to the presence of ghosts, but there’s certainly the potential if you believe in that sort of thing.”

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While Reibling is happy to see 15 King Street continue to be run as an inn or turned back into a private residence—he says he’d be willing to sell with the furniture in place—he would like the property to go to someone who will preserve the historic nature of the home, and hopefully someone with a healthy tolerance for the paranormal. “We think the buyer is somebody who loves and appreciates old architecture and would like to see the building stand for another 200 years.”

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