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Bivalve and Shell Pile – Commercial Township, NJ
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I first heard of Shell Pile and Bivalve, two old oystering towns, the way most folks do, through Henry Charlton Beck’s classic book Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey.  While many of the towns in that book are long gone, Shell Pile and Bivalve (along with Port Norris) hang in there.  Despite diseases that have nearly wiped out the oyster population (twice), one factory and a handful of boats still hang on.  And, of course, there are still gigantic piles of shells, same as there were in the 1930s.  I hadn’t been there in five or six years.  What sent me back?  Well, I drove by this the other day…

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… and Millville is fairly close to Shell Pile and The Pres had never been and Spring Break is almost over, so why not?

The place has changed a little bit, more of it is run down by the year, and more marinas are closed, but the Bayshore Discovery Center has some nice digs, even if the Meerwald was in Philly for the month.  So, a brief (but in no way thorough) tour:

 

Old Port Norris School, built on stilts to avoid flooding.

Old Port Norris School, built on stilts to avoid flooding. 2014.



Which is attached to a bar. There's no sign now (it might not be open anymore), but this picture is from 2005 when it was Al's Hideaway.

Which is attached to a bar. There’s no sign now (it might not be open anymore), but this picture is from 2005 when it was Al’s Hideaway.

The pile of shells next door hasn't changed a bit, nor has the machinery.

The pile of shells next door hasn’t changed a bit, nor has the machinery. 2014.

The parking lots are even made of shells.

The parking lots are even made of shells. 2014.

Anyone want to buy a marina?

Anyone want to buy a marina? 2014.

Old anchor.

Old anchor. 2014.

It used to have a sign on it (and Ray used to have a mohawk) - 2005.

It used to have a sign on it (and Ray used to have a mohawk) – 2005.

Picturesque old church.

Picturesque old church.  I don’t remember the holes in the roof. 2014.

Looking more worn by the year.

Looking more worn by the year. 2014.

But not a ton different than it did in 2005. Shortly before I took this picture, there was a "Services held Occasionally" sign hanging, but it was gone by this point.

But not a ton different than it did in 2005 in this picture. Shortly before I took this picture, there was a “Services held Occasionally” sign hanging, but it was gone by this point.

Fishing boats- 2014.

Fishing boats- 2014.

Old Jersey Central car in the Bayshore Parking lot. Someone conked out in the backseat, so we couldn't check the center out. Next time!

Old Jersey Central car in the Bayshore Parking lot. Someone conked out in the backseat, so we couldn’t check the center out. Next time! 2014.

From 2005 - couldn't find it this time, but a building in the Bayshore lot looked suspiciously like this one.

From 2005 – couldn’t find it this time, but a building in the Bayshore lot looked suspiciously like this one.

2005 - another massive shell pile.

2005 – another massive shell pile.

Abandoned house for sale - 2014. How great would it be to fix this up?

Abandoned house for sale – 2014. How great would it be to fix this up?

A seriously awesome part of Shell Pile and Bivalve is that the Library of Congress has about 50 pictures between the two hamlets taken by Arthur Rothstein in 1938.  It’s a little window in time on the two towns that today have only about 50 people between them, but were booming at the time.  I’ll post a few here, you’re welcome to use the Library of Congress’s online picture search to find the rest.

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Great place to go visit and explore.  Try to pair it up with a visit to the Bayshore Discovery Center, a sail on the AJ Meerwald, or a hike or bike ride on the nearby nature trail (with nice views of the salt marshes).

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southjerseytrails
6 Comments
  • May 8, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Awwww, I love your blog SO MUCH! I’m originally from Cumberland County (now in Williamstown) & love seeing you explore some of my favorite places (and trails that I didn’t know existed!). I avidly hike with my young son (3), as well, and love following your adventures.

    • May 8, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks! Cumberland County is gorgeous! I think the Heislerville WMA is next on my list down that way, but I’d better go before the bugs start getting really bad!

  • Rob E.
    January 14, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Thanks for this info on Bivalve. Where is that abandoned church located? By the way, cool site!

  • Fergie the Pig
    June 15, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    I drove through today. I’d been there a few times in the 1960s. Very little is left and perhaps every third home in the Port Norris area is abandoned.
    Fascinating all the same.

  • Bruce Rogers
    October 26, 2016 at 2:00 am

    I am 61 now but I remember my Mom driving us down to Shell Pile and Bivalve on a mission sometime in the early ’60’s You got it, she was looking for shells (conch shells to be specific) for crafting. I remember the smell was very strong in the air. She did get what she came for. The shell piles were huge.

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