Wolfville’s Main Street
Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Many things bring people to Wolfville, but Main Street is truly the heart of town. Pedestrians and cyclists bring Main Street to life, and sidewalk seating areas, patios, and green spaces punctuate the streetscape and provide opportunities for people-watching. Heritage buildings and modern developments provide the backdrop for annual festivals and community events.
On Main Street, the vibrancy of Acadia University, historic town charm, local innovation, arts, culture, and picturesque views of the 17th century Dykelands meet and mingle. Main Street is the thriving social and commercial hub of town, connecting visitors and residents with memorable experiences and unique shops and services all year round.
When Acadia University is in session, the population of Wolfville almost doubles, and in summer the Town enjoys significant tourist traffic. These ebbs and flows change the Town’s demographics in an annual cycle. Main Street provides experiences for everyone, and keeps the Town bustling year-round. Over half the population of Wolfville works in Town, so Main Street’s local businesses enjoy consistent support from local residents as well.
Wolfville cares deeply about its Main Street. In 2002, Wolfville was voted ‘one of the best towns in which to live in Canada’, and Main Street’s contribution to Wolfville’s social, cultural, and economic prosperity cannot be understated. Main Street’s cultural activities, caring community, progressive sense of sustainability and diversity definitely make it one of Canada’s Great Places.
Take a walk down Wolfville’s Main Street!
Events and Festivals
Wolfville is a festive town, and Main Street hosts exciting community events and festivals which welcome all members of the community and seasonal visitors. Student-run theatres, holiday celebrations, art galleries, international food, film, and wine festivals make Main Street a vibrant place year-round.
Nowhere celebrates local food and wine like Wolfville. The well-loved Wolfville Farmer’s Market is just off Main Street and regularly hosts community events and market suppers which allow people to sample local products and meet local producers.
“Devour! The Food Film Festival”, the world’s largest food-and-film festival, is appropriately stationed in Wolfville every year in the heart of Nova Scotia’s food and wine region. This festival promotes local agriculture and chefs and celebrates Wolfville’s food community. Gala dinners, wine tours and tastings, pop-ups and industry sessions accompany international culinary cinema. The main film venue is the Al Whittle Theatre on Main Street.
The Town of Wolfville and Acadia University share a strong bond and University events are an important part of the Main Street calendar. The annual ‘Paint the Town Red and Blue’ event welcomes new and returning students to Wolfville, and gives residents the opportunity to meet their new neighbours. This event fosters positive relationships between students, the university and residents by creating a fun and inclusive atmosphere.
Wolfville also celebrates the holiday season in style with the Wolfville Night of Lights and the Wolfville Christmas Market. Both events use Main Street venues, including Clock Park.
Another favourite on the festival calendar is the Deep Roots Music Festival. This community-based festival is the largest in the Annapolis Valley and attracts music lovers from across the east coast to party on Main Street.
Wolfville’s festivals and events cater to all ages and interests, and Main Street’s built environment provides a diverse mix of venues for community events large and small. History, culture, festivals and passionate people bring the buzz, but Main Street provides the stage!
Wolfville’s roots are agricultural. Acadian settlers in the 17th century developed the Landscape of Grand Pré and associated Dykelands – today a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of this important development of agricultural farmland, an “exceptional example of the adaptation of the first European settlers to the conditions of the North American Atlantic coast”. Through the centuries, the Dykelands have been further developed and maintained by successive waves of settlers and current inhabitants. The Dykelands can be easily accessed on foot from Main Street.
Later growth came from agriculture and ports. The Town was mainly accessed by sea until Kings County was connected to Halifax overland, and Wolfville’s small harbour is still accessible just off Main Street. Shipping and trade shifted to the Cornwallis River in 1868 and remnants of this shipping infrastructure can still be seen today along the Dykelands.
Main Street was once known as the ‘Old Post Road’, part of a road network that linked Halifax to Annapolis Royal. Main Street was paved in 1911 – the first paved main street in Nova Scotia!
Several businesses have built their name along Main Street since the 1700’s. John Frederick Herbin’s elegant jewellery shop was founded in 1885 and remains in the family after four generations.
The Acadia Cinema Cooperative operates the Al Whittle Theatre, another important building on Main Street originally built in 1911. The theatre building has played an important role in the social life of Main Street for decades, and today it provides a venue for live performances, films, and festivals.
Other heritage buildings along Main Street include the St. Francis of Assisi Church, Chase House, and Wright House, as well as the old Burying Ground. The Old Burying Ground cemetery was constructed in 1763 and is just west of the commercial hub of Main Street beside Clock Park. A stone wall and wrought iron gate enclose the front of the cemetery. Some of the oldest trees in Wolfville are inside the cemetery wall. This was the only cemetery available for residents until 1818, and many of Wolfville’s early citizens are buried there, including many members of Wolfville’s founding DeWolfe family.
Culture: An innovative collaboration between the Acadia Cinema and Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op, who occupy adjacent buildings, established Jack’s Gallery in the lobby between their two properties. In partnership with Youth Challenge International, the Gallery hosts rotating displays of work by young and emerging local artists from Kings County.
Open Space: Clock Park, toward the western end of Main Street has recently been upgraded. Upgrades including shade trees, seating, landscaping and fencing have made the park more user-friendly. The Clock is a landmark in the town, and the improvements mean the park is used more frequently during the many festivals and events that happen along Main Street.
One of the few outdoor skate parks in Nova Scotia is located at the eastern end of Main Street, providing an alternative active open space along Main Street for young people.
Sustainability: In 2007, Wolfville became the first Fair Trade Town in Canada. This means that Wolfville is committed to supporting sustainable, positive, and fair trade development. Restaurants, cafes and boutiques along Main Street are justifiably proud of their Fair Trade designations.
Wolfville values accessibility and walking is the most popular mode of active transportation in Wolfville. The main commercial portion of Main Street is about 1km long which makes it very walkable. Additional efforts have been made to improve walkability for Wolfville’s aging population, including signalised crossings, dropped curbs at pedestrian crossings, and traffic calming street design. Colourful crosswalks along Main Street further promote active living.
Public transit is available to the community through Kings Transit which stops along Main Street and serves the wider region of surrounding counties. Bike racks encourage alternative modes of transportation, and bicycle lanes are available throughout the town.
The restaurants and pubs along Main Street love to participate in the community and create spaces for people. Outdoor patios allow patrons to be active participants in street life, and extended sidewalks in these areas allow pedestrians clear access.
Main Street is compact, urban, and walkable with attractive buildings, open spaces and pedestrian areas. The street has a lively mix of uses: restaurants, pubs and cafes sit beside shops, businesses, residences and entertainment facilities. Residential areas give way to Willow Park at the eastern end of Main Street, retail shops and businesses fill the core, and there is a gradual transition to a blend of residential and retail uses further west, before arriving at Acadia University. Streetscape elements such as lighting, seating, and landscape elements make the journey along Main Street a delight.
Main Street’s architecture exhibits 1700s New England Planter influences, 19th century Victorian elements, 1920’s store-fronts, some art deco and art nouveau detailing and contemporary designs from the post-war period. The celebration and preservation of this eclectic collection of styles gives Main Street its unique and memorable sense of place.