What was this place?
The Central Railroad of New Jersey built this long complex of 30 sheds in 1904 to process oysters that were harvested from the Delaware Bay. The railroad knew that they would reap the monetary rewards of building an infrastructure to move oysters efficiently from the water to the plate. The sheds housed numerous oyster-related businesses and served as a “main street” for the community.
Prior to 1875, oysters were shipped by boats and a long wharf was built parallel to the river. By the 1880s, there were buildings of varying sizes and shapes and a railroad platform. In 1904, the current structure was constructed.
Oystermen and packing companies operated out of here, leasing a two-story office/store front and storeroom, half an alleyway, half a wharf and half a boat slip. Other businesses that supported the oyster industry, such as chandleries, meat markets, post office and lumber yards, helped fuel the region’s growth and development.
In 1879-80, 69,800 sacks of oysters were shipped in their shell with an average of 10 freight cars a day. By the mid 1920s, 55-60 million oysters or 700,000 sacks of oysters were shipped annually with an average of 80 freight cars a day.
What makes this place important?
The Oyster Shipping Sheds and Wharves…
– were a central location of oyster packing, one of South Jersey’s economic drivers and largest industries in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
– retained much of their historical integrity and remain relevant to the center of Bivalve’s working commercial waterfront.
– are a unique example of a marine industrial structure that provided infrastructure for the marketing of oysters, and for all the additional services necessary to have an economically self-sufficient and successful community.
– were standardized and developed along the railroad line, which preceded commercial strip developments along roads that would later become common in the American landscape.
– are the only surviving early 20th century speculative industrial development in the Delaware Bay area, and possibly the country, built by a railroad company.
– represent an early 20th century regional intermodal transportation hub. The wharves accommodated docking for oyster schooners and a ferry, loading of the oysters into freight cars to be transported to market, and a passenger terminal for the railroad and trolley lines bringing large numbers of workers.
– were a very successful enterprise that spurred the development of the village of Bivalve and had beneficial economical influence on the entire South Jersey economy.