Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ivanovich Netshed

Gig Harbor Net Sheds
(The Largest Inventory on the Puget Sound)

I hope you have been enjoying our slow pace as we walk along the waterfront checking out the netsheds on the way.  

And if you have had the opportunity last week and this week to watch the fishing fleet, wishing them Godspeed for a safe journey to Alaska, a successful catch and then a safe return to us in Gig Harbor at the end of summer you cannot help but understand how important these simple structures were, and remain today.  Don't forget, they will still be needed in the future as well for the young men and women who are joining the commercial fishing fleet.

The age of the seventeen netsheds we are visiting range from 1907 for the Mojean Netshed, the last on our tour to 1951, the Morin Netshed, the second one we visited.  But as you read the City of Gig Harbor's Netshed survey, perhaps more important than the age of the structure is the Historical Context.  It is a most read!  It will give you a much clearer picture of the original family to own the netshed and use it.

For this week's stop, we will learn about Mato Ivanovich and his netshed.  Maybe you remember the Harbor History blog about Mato's son, Dr. Peter Ivanovich last April 17, 2012.  (Dr. Peter Ivanivich)

Mato Ivanovich left his home in Janjina on the Peljesac Peninsula in Croatia as a teenager, and although Janjina has a rich maritime history dating back centuries he had not been involved in it.  As you will learn he was a greenhorn when he started fishing with Pasko Dorotich.

Over this and the next 13 blogs we will touch on more of these historic structures which allowed our first settlers to repair equipment and boats, mend and store nets, and other jobs necessary for their job of fishing.  But more importantly are still needed today by the commercial fishermen and women.

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  

The old IVANOVICH NETSHED is the fourth of 17 netsheds along Gig Harbor’s waterfront that will be the subject of this week’s blog.  The previous three were Gilich - 1932, Morin - 1951 and Bujacich - 1950.  A copy of the survey can be accessed at  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 Ivanovich Netshed (now owned by Mato's grandson) go to

You can also obtain a copy of a brochure for a self-guided tour of the 17 netsheds from the City of Gig Harbor, the Harbor History Museum, or the Chamber of Commerce or click 

To me and many others, the netsheds 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 'netsheds' 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.

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. 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.  Or, if you follow the City of Gig Harbor's brochure, you'll reverse the direction of the tour.

Tune in next week for the next in our series on the historic net sheds of Gig Harbor.

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