|Orange marks show location of net sheds|
along Gig Harbor's waterfront
Gig Harbor's Net Sheds
(The Largest Inventory on the Puget Sound)
Have you noticed lately with the improvement in our weather that we are getting more visitors each day strolling around town? Several visitors walking through the Millville District have stopped and asked me about our town. Some questions are: Is this area (Millville) your historic neighborhood? How old is it? How old are the houses? What did the first people do? And so forth.
As I answer their questions I'm thinking in the back of my mind (yes I still have one) that we as a community should make more of an effort to link our history and heritage of the downtown area with the present. Yes, I know, we do have several historical markers identifying some our the properties around town. And yes, the visitors are referred to the Harbor History Museum but pointing down Harborview Drive with an explanation that 'just follow the road and it's about X-minutes away.' One resident once suggested that those of us in Millville place a small identical marker in our yards showing the date of construction and the original builder or resident similar to "Established 1884, Joseph Dorotich."
Many of our earliest settlers claimed the wider Gig Harbor area for their future homes. As Lawrence Durrell said in his "Reflections on a Marine Venus," a recounting of his life on Rhodes during World War II after the Allies defeated the Germans and Italians occupying the isle, 'the past provides a vicarious sense of continuity to the future' (I have paraphrased his comment).
With this in mind the next 15 blogs will deal with one of the more important factors in our history - the net sheds that allowed our early residents to conduct their business of commercial fishing operations. These structures allowed them to store and repair their nets, repair equipment, and perform many of the jobs that could only be done on dry land between fishing seasons. These net sheds are a significant remnant of the economic development of Gig Harbor, then, and now. Gig Harbor is fortunate to have the largest remaining historic net shed inventory in the Puget Sound.
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
|Original Morin Net Shed - |
Now used by the Lovrovich Family
The old MORIN NET SHED is the second of 17 net sheds 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=1089 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 Morin Net shed (now owned by Gregg, Timothy, and Thomas Lovrovich) go to http://www.cityofgigharbor.net/page.php?id=1089
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 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 fishermen to provide a place to mend nets, repair 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 family properties disappear. Some of these historic properties have changed hands and have been adapted to re-use, with the renovation retaining little if any of the original features.
When you look at the west side of Gig Harbor Bay, you'll find the 17 net sheds we will identify in this and the next 16 blogs. These net sheds are 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. http://www.cityofgigharbor.net/files/library/7ddc034fdcde1ad9.pdf But remember, that except for the Skansie net shed 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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