Gig Harbor Net Sheds
(The Largest Inventory on the Puget Sound)
I've always love the way the fishermen in Iceland, Nova Scotia, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, and other places throughout the world paint their net sheds in bright primary colors. A quick look through travel brochures of these places and you'll see what I mean.
In fact, while reading "Yes, Chef" I was again reminded of this when reading Marcus Samuelsson's description of Smogen, his father's birthplace and where they spent most of their vacations. Smogen is an island off the west coast of Sweden. "It was a three minute walk to our boathouse. Like every boathouse in Hasselosund, ours was painted a carnelian red with an even darker red pitched roof with white trim around the eaves, doors and windows. …Inside was a boat and mishmash of tackle: nets, traps, rods and buckets, buoys and oars and fish knives." (Yes, Chef, a Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson, published by Random House Publishing Group.)
Now granted, despite what you might think, I was not around when the net sheds in Gig Harbor were built but I sometimes wonder if our early settlers thought about carrying that tradition over from the Old World. Probably not because most came with few resources, in less prosperous times and were more concerned with earning a living than colorful net sheds. After all, these net sheds were work places where time and attention was spent on keeping equipment and nets in working condition.
Regardless of whether the net shed is weathered wood that has never seen a paintbrush or painted the same color as the house, or white as Dr. Burnham preferred, there is a strange beauty in these simple buildings.
Generally they are just a rectangular structure, some with an extended roof over the dock on the water side where loading and unloading take place...or where the men could sit enjoying the view while chatting and taking a break from work.
I think it is so very important that nine of these net sheds are still active working sheds for local commercial fishermen.
Over this and the next 14 blogs we will touch on these historic structures which allowed our first settlers to conduct their business of commercial fishing. The Morin net shed was featured last week.
I want to thank the City of Gig Harbor for allowing me to use material from the Historic American Engineering Survey on Gig Harbor Net Sheds. The complete surveys can be located http://www.cityofgigharbor.net/page.php?id=689
|Bujacich Net Shed - remains in the Bujacich family|
The BUJACICH NET SHED is the third of 17 netsheds (the first was the Gilich netshed and second was Morin netshed)along Gig Harbor’s waterfront that will be the subject of this week’s blog. A copy of the survey can be accessed at http://www.cityofgigharbor.net/page.php?id=1091 The survey includes Engineered drawings in Plan and Profile thanks to funds provided by the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and the National Trust. To view images of the Bujacich net shed (still in the family) go to http://www.cityofgigharbor.net/files/library/6a884d56ca0b7063.pdf
You can also obtain a copy of a brochure for a self-guided tour of the 17 net sheds from the City of Gig Harbor, the Harbor History Museum, or the Chamber of Commerce or click http://www.cityofgigharbor.net/files/library/7ddc034fdcde1ad9.pdf
To me and many others, the net sheds of Gig Harbor are a constant reminder of the first major industry here after the white settlers arrived. It was the Europeans escaping hard times in their homelands that came to Gig Harbor and either took up fishing or continued fishing earning them and their families a livelihood on the water harvesting the bountiful fish in the surrounding waters. The principle fishermen were Croatians, but there were many Scandinavians as well.
The net sheds were built by the immigrants to provide a place to mend nets, repair their boats, provide a gathering place between fishing seasons, and perform other jobs necessary to get their boats ready for the next venture at sea. Fishing is a full time job otherwise known as "12-month job." Many men fished the Pacific Ocean waters from the coast of South America to the Bering Sea.
Today's fishermen ranging in age from their 60s (maybe 70s) to their early 20s are still carrying on the traditions and values of their ancestors. Fishing is a living, thriving, industry - young people still enter the fishing profession after completing their education. Over the past 36 years that I have lived in Gig Harbor I have seen many historic net sheds and fishing families properties disappear. Some of these historic properties have changed hands and have been adapted to reuse and rebuilt retaining little if any of the original features.
When you look at the west side of Gig Harbor Bay and you'll find the 17 net sheds we are identifying in this and the next 16 blogs, you can see the remnants of what was one of the most vibrant working waterfronts on the Puget Sound. The first net shed was built in 1910 by Peter Skansie. More net sheds popped up along the harbor during the 1920s, and still more were built in the 1940s through the 1950s.
Okay, so now I have encouraged you to check out a few of these structures - how do you go about it? As I mentioned earlier, the City of Gig Harbor has prepared a brochure for a self-guided tour of all 17 net sheds. Grab a copy and then decide how you are going to do it. http://www.cityofgigharbor.net/files/library/7ddc034fdcde1ad9.pdf But remember that except for the Skansie netshed these net sheds are privately owned and you will need permission from the owner to enter unless they are operated as a business enterprise open to the public.
If you have a boat, that is the best way; it allows you to close your eyes and visualize how busy those properties were in their heyday. But, though not quite as impressive, you can do the same thing walking along Harborview from the old Ferry dock at the mouth of the harbor all the way up to West Shore Marina.
Tune in next week for the next in our series on the historic net sheds of Gig Harbor.
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