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PEI Shellfish Museum

154 Bideford Road, Ellerslie, Prince Edward Island, C0B, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2010/12/16

PEI Shellfish Museum; Province of PEI, C. Stewart, 2015
PEI Shellfish Museum
Ellerslie Biological Station, ca 1930s; PARO/PEI Acc 2320/15-5 Camera Club Collection
Ellerslie Biological Station, ca 1930s
PEI Shellfish Museum and Bideford River; Province of PEI, C. Stewart, 2015
PEI Shellfish Museum and Bideford River

Other Name(s)

PEI Shellfish Museum
Ellerslie Biological Station

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2015/08/04

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The PEI Shellfish Museum is a 1 ½ storey, wood shingle clad, single gabled building located next to the Bideford River, a tributary of Malpeque Bay, in Ellerslie-Bideford, Prince Edward Island.

Heritage Value

The PEI Shellfish Museum is valued as one of the few historic sites interpreting the importance of the history of the shellfish, and in particular, the oyster fishing industry, in the province.

The bays and estuaries of Prince Edward Island provide ideal growing conditions for oysters. Enjoyed by the earliest inhabitants of the province, the shellfish fishery has grown steadily over the years. The ease of transporting goods due to the building of the PEI Railway in the early 1870s, provided producers access to expanded markets for shellfish. The Malpeque oyster was recognized for excellence in 1900 at the Exposition Universelle, a world's fair held in Paris, visited by more than 50 million people, creating a huge demand for the product. However, over-fishing since the 1880s, and a disease which in 1913 had wiped out 90% of Island oyster beds, resulted in the near devastation of the oyster industry.

Biologist Dr. Alfred W.H. Needler (1906 - 1998) was hired by the federal Department of Fisheries to direct an oyster research facility on the Bideford River in Ellerslie in an effort to restore the fishery. This building was constructed in 1930 for use as a lab by Dr. Needler and his staff and was the first building on the site that formed a sub-station of the Atlantic Biological Station based at St. Andrews, New Brunswick. The lab and a government reserve of oyster grounds became the Ellerslie Biological Station or PEI Experimental Oyster Farm. In the mid-1930s, an epidemic oyster disease swept the Maritimes again. Because Dr. Needler had stored oyster spat he'd harvested before the disease broke out, the Ellerslie Biological Station became the source for re-stocking decimated oyster beds across the Maritimes. The disease-resistant stock saved the industry in PEI and across the Maritimes. The Ellerslie Biological Station was central to the story of pioneer research and development of oysters in Canada and played a significant role in the establishment of PEI's international oyster trade in the 20th century. Research and development was vigorous at the Station through the 1950s and it was the headquarters for obtaining oyster spat and lease applications. At its peak in the mid-1960s, 42 people were employed here. By the early 1980s the research program had declined to a complement of 7 staff in 23 buildings on 13 acres of land.

Closed in 1996, the building is now home to the PEI Shellfish Museum, operated by the PEI Shellfish Association, and continues to play an important role in the preservation and interpretion of the history of the shellfish industry to visitors.

Source : Heritage Places records, Department of Education, Early Learning & Culture, Charlottetown, PEI
File #: 4310-20/P45

Character-Defining Elements

The heritage value of the PEI Shellfish Museum is shown in the following heritage character-defining elements:

- the overall size and massing of the structure
- the 1 ½ storey single gabled structure
- the original windows on the first storey of the west elevation
- the steeply pitched roof
- the wood shingle cladding
- the wide cornerboards
- the wide overhang on the eaves
- the bracketing under the eaves
- the wrap-around verandah

Other character-defining elements include:

- the location of the building next to the Bideford River, within a cluster of buildings once part of the PEI Biological Station for the federal Department of Fisheries



Prince Edward Island

Recognition Authority

Province of Prince Edward Island

Recognition Statute

Heritage Places Protection Act

Recognition Type

Registered Historic Place

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Extraction and Production

Function - Category and Type




Food Supply
Fisheries Site

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Source : Heritage Places records, Department of Education, Early Learning & Culture, Charlottetown, PEI File #: 4310-20/P45

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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