Gig Harbor's Historic Netsheds Background
As early as 1910, Gig Harbor's first netsheds began appearing along the waterfront. These simple structures, many constructed with rough, hand-hewn for were used by local fishermen to store nets and fishing gear.
As the town grew, many netsheds disappeared; displaced by new development and commercial marinas. Today, only 17 netsheds along the western shoreline remain, but Gig Harbor Bay still boasts the largest inventory of historic netsheds on the Puget Sound.
In 2008, the City applied for and received a Washington State Historic Preservation Grant from the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP), view the DAHP website. The 2009 project was completed by National Park Service HAER Maritime Program Coordinator, Todd A. Croteau, in the summer of 2009. Croteau worked in partnership with the Council of American Maritime Museums (CAMM) and provided on-site demonstrations for Bates Technical College students to complete each Historic Amercan Engineering Record (HAER). University of Washington students, Brian Diveley and Shelly Leavens also participated under the management of Croteau. Each structure includes a historical context narrative, measured drawings (24 by 36 mylars) and individual large-format black-and-white photographs transmitted to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. for inclusion in the Prints and Photographs Division's HAER Collection. View the Library of Congress website for more details. The documents will be held in the public domain and be available through the Library's website "Built in America"
Gig Harbor's Historic Commercial Fishing Netsheds were listed by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation on their 2008 Most Endangered Structures List. You can read more in the National Trust's Preservation Magazine article, "Washington's Fishing Sheds Get Boost."
View the Fishing in the NW YouTube Video by Jim Gillette that records a day during the 2011 Fall Fishing Season outside the mouth of Gig Harbor. Andy Babich is Skipper of the purse seiner, "Ocean Dream". He and his crew fish for Chum Salmon in West Pass. More history on Gig Harbor and it's Commercial Fishing Fleet can be found on the Harbor History Museum website.
For more information about registering a Historic Netshed, check the Historic Waterfront Dock / Netshed Eligibility Checklist on the Registering Your Netshed page or call our Planning Department.
The seventeen extant net sheds in Gig Harbor, Washington, are significant as remnants of the community’s cultural heritage and economic development. Families, mostly of Croatian ancestry, have passed down the net sheds and fishing vessels for several generations. Many of the extant net sheds are an integral part of successful commercial fishing operations and are used for storing and mending fishing nets as well as repairing the equipment used for commercial vessels. Except for the remaining commercial fishing boats in the harbor, net sheds are the only surviving architectural connection between the community and what was once one of the most successful fishing fleets on the west coast.
The City of Gig Harbor has taken steps to provide incentives for property owners who retain historic net sheds, and in 2006, conducted a general survey of the seventeen remaining structures lining the harbor’s waterfront. In 2008, Mildred Andrews of the Andrews Group completed an independent survey of Gig Harbor’s historic downtown. The city secured grant funds from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to document the net sheds for the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), a division of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Todd Croteau, of the HAER Maritime Program, supervised the documentation team, which consisted of Brian Diveley and Shelly Leavens, both Sally Kress Tompkins Maritime Documentation Interns. A survey team of students from Bates Technical College in Tacoma, Washington, also lent support to the documentation effort. The documentation team’s liaison to the net shed owners is the City of Gig Harbor’s Special Projects Coordinator, Lita Dawn Stanton.