Lore Oyster House

Located six-tenths of a mile south of the main museum campus on Solomons Island Road, this 1934 seafood packing house has been restored and is designated a National Historic Landmark. It now houses exhibits that explore all aspects of oyster processing – from receiving oysters at the dock to storing, shucking, washing, packing, and shipping the product to markets across the region.

History of the Lore Oyster House

J.C. Lore and Sons of Solomons was one of the largest and most successful seafood packing companies in Southern Maryland. Founded by Joseph C. Lore Sr. at the height of the Chesapeake oyster industry in 1888, the company specialized in packing and shipping Patuxent River fish, crabs, and oysters.

The present building replaced one that was destroyed by an August 1933 hurricane. It has been expanded several times and, in its heyday, employed about 65 people. After World War II, the company specialized in shucking and packing fresh oysters.

Many shuckers and watermen left the oyster industry because they were able to get better paying jobs with the military when WWII began to influence Southern Maryland. A combination of pollution, disease, and over-harvesting caused the region’s oyster population to crash in the late 20th century and led to the closure of many of the local seafood processing and packing businesses. The decline in the local oysters and difficulty in recruiting new oyster shuckers caused J.C. Lore & Sons to close in 1978.

Oyster Shuckers

Oyster shuckers at the J.C. Lore & Sons were mainly local African American women and men who were paid a set rate for each gallon of oysters they opened. An experienced shucker can open about ten to twelve gallons of oysters per day. The best can produce about two gallons of shucked oysters an hour.

Pay scale from the J.C. Lore & Sons oyster house:

  • 1924 - 25 cents per gallon
  • 1941 - 35 cents per gallon
  • 1952 - $1 per gallon
  • 1974 - $1.50 per gallon

Did you know...

  • In 1607 oysters were so numerous in the Chesapeake Bay, that it took three to five days for them to filter all of its water. Today it takes the population of oysters over a year to complete the task. Each oyster filters about 50 gallons of water a day.
  • Oysters can live in waters with salinity levels between five and thirty-five parts per thousand. The Patuxent River is a perfect location for oysters with average salinity levels from ten to eighteen parts per thousand.
  • Oysters may live up to twenty years. They become legal for harvest when they reach three inches in length or are about three years of age.
  • Enemies of oysters include oyster drills, cow-nosed rays, crabs, "MSX", "Dermo", silt run-off, nutrient pollution, and of course man's desire for the delicacy.
  • No two oysters are the same and the type of benthic location can help determine its shape. If an oyster is partly covered by silt on a soft bottom it becomes elongated in shape. Harder surface bottoms tend to make the shape more rounded.
  • Shuckers sort oysters by size. The largest are called “counts,” medium-sized oysters are called “selects,” and the smallest are called “standards.”
  • Until the mid-1980s, oysters were the most valuable commercial fishery in the Chesapeake Bay.
  • J.C. Lore & Sons oyster house is built on fill made of discarded oyster shells from the oyster shucking houses of Lore and Woodburn.
  • J.C. Lore & Sons oyster house was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 2001.