MCCURDY SMOKEHOUSE MUSEUM
and Mulholland Market Gallery
The Historic McCurdy's Herring Smokehouse complex, owned since 1996 by Lubec Landmarks, Inc. (a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable corporation), is a unique site in both Maine and the United States. Its buildings stand on tall log pilings in the swift tidal currents of the Lubec Narrows where the Bay of Fundy tides can range as high as 25 feet twice daily. Beginning in the 1890s and until 1991, herring were smoked here in the traditional process with European roots.
At one time during the peak of the fish industry in Lubec in the 1920s, there were over 20 sardine canneries and almost 30 herring smokehouses. By the mid-1970s McCurdy's stood alone, the last smokehouse still curing herring for markets around the country.
The history of herring smoking is being told today in our Skinning/Packing Shed museum, which opened to the public in 2007 with exhibits and tours. The McCurdy Smokehouse Complex was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993 based on its significance as an industrial site where a unique trade was practiced. When it closed in 1991, it was the last herring smokehouse in the U.S. still operating. Afterwards, commercial herring smoking completely vanished in the U.S.
McCurdy's was an important economic hub of the community when it closed, as all of the sardine canneries had already closed. All but a couple of the sardine canning buildings are gone.
McCurdy's is not just the last site where the buildings of herring smoking - one of the most important industries of downcast Maine - are preserved, it also stands for some of the only buildings representing the working waterfronts of the region from a vanished era. There used to be many different types of buildings along the Lubec waterfront. There were "coal pockets", lumber wharves, ship chandleries, boat building yards, sardine canneries, and of course the other smokehouses that at one time lined the waterfronts on all the Water Streets of Washington County towns. McCurdy's is the "last of the last".
WHAT WE DO
We operate a museum, the Historic McCurdy Smokehouse Museum currently located in our Skinning/Packing Shed. In it, visitors discover how herring were smoked and processed. We employ former employees of the McCurdy smokehouse who use their firsthand knowledge to explain and demonstrate some of the processes of the herring smokehouse industry. We charge a modest entrance fee ($4) to help pay for our museum docents - the only paid workers in our organization.
We also have an art gallery and gift shop in our Mulholland Brothers Market building, which was built in the late 1860s and was a grocery store for many years before it served as a storage building for the smokehouse operation. We typically have a series of art exhibitions during the summer months, and we also sell craft items from local artisans in our gift shop. The gallery and gift shop are staffed completely by unpaid volunteers. Commissions from these sales are our main source of income for maintaining our buildings. We have a crew of unpaid volunteers who serve on the Preservation Committee and are responsible for maintaining our buildings. We also have a crew of unpaid volunteers on the Grounds Committee who are responsible for our gardens and grounds.
Lubec Maine is the easternmost place in the United States (yes, even further east than Eastport). A thin ribbon of water separates "downtown" Lubec from the Canadian island of Campobello. This ribbon of water, the Lubec Narrows, is a virtual reversing river, with fast currents fluctuating with the massive tides of the Bay of Fundy, home of the highest tides in the world. Currently, over 1300 people call Lubec "home" year-round. In the 1920s, there were over 20 sardine canneries, a sardine can factory, a movie theater and bowling alley, about 20 herring smokehouses, and about 4000 people residing here. Now, none of the herring or sardine operations are left.
However, Lubec is still a fishing community for clamming, lobstering, scalloping, urchin and mussels. Increasingly, tourism is becoming an economic driver of the region. We are home to West Quoddy Head Light, the picturesque candy-striped lighthouse and easternmost point in the U.S., which attracts many travelers. Lubec also has many gorgeous hiking trails on the "bold coast" between Lubec and Cutler, and the beautiful blue waters of the Bay of Fundy, Cobscook Bay, and Passamaquoddy Bays are making this an eco-tourism destination for kayakers, sailors, whale watchers, and adventurers.
Also, (before the pandemic) a good deal of tourism traffic passed through Lubec each day over the bridge to Campobello Island, New Brunswick, which is home to the Roosevelt Campobello International Park (RCIP), where Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's summer cottage is located.