HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING SURVEY
GIG HARBOR NET SHEDS

GILICH NET SHED

(STEARNS NET SHED)
HAER No. WA-186-J

 
LOCATION

3323 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor, Pierce County, Washington

 

PRESENT OWNER

Stanley (Stan) Stearns, Arabella’s Landing, Gig Harbor Marina, Inc.

 

PRESENT USE

Arabella’s Landing marina clubhouse

 

SIGNIFICANCE

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.

 

HISTORIAN

Shelly Leavens, summer 2009

 

PROJECT INFORMATION

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.

 

 

PART I -- HISTORICAL INFORMATION

 

PHYSICAL HISTORY OF BUILDINGS

DATE OF CONSTRUCTION -- Ca. 1930s (Original structure burned in 1940s) Ca. 1950s (Replacement structure)
ARCHITECT / ENGINEER -- Not known
BUILDER / CONTRACTOR / SUPPLIER -- Andrew and Tony Gilich
ORIGINAL PLANS -- None known
ALTERATIONS AND ADDITIONS

In 1985, Stan and Judy Stearns purchased the Gilich (Stearns) net shed from Paul Gustufson who had begun the development of the property as a marina.  Stan Stearns and his Texas-based company, Gig Harbor Marina, Inc., renovated the net shed from a storage space to a marina clubhouse that is used by boaters, permanent tenants, and transient moorage guests.  The original general structural integrity is intact, but the renovation including capping pilings, re-roofing, re-siding, adding a new floor and interior walls, doors and windows.  New low floats are equipped with 125V service at 20, 30, or 50 amps, or 250V service at 50 amps.

 

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

The Gilich (Stearns) net shed was built by Andrew and Antone (Tony) Gilich. It remained in the Gilich family for commercial fishing until it was purchased for development by Paul Gustafson, ca. early 1980s.  The land occupied by the Stearns’ net sheds (Novak and Gilich) is within the historic Millville plat (the original Gig harbor settlement) and zoned "Waterfront Millville

(WM)” by the City of Gig Harbor. The complete remodel of the Gilich (Stearns) net shed resulted in Arabella’s Landing Marina Clubhouse in 1985, prior to the historic area designation.

 

 

PART II -- STRUCTURAL / DESIGN INFORMATION

 

GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The Gilich (Stearns) net shed is approximately 1,800 square feet. The building is 24’ wide and 75’ long.

 

1.  CHARACTER

The Arabella’s Marina clubhouse (formerly the Gilich net shed) has had no changes to it since the original renovation 16 years ago. The Sterns’ used old growth cedar for siding, enclosed the open rafters for attic storage space and left the middle of the space open for multiple uses.

 

2.  CONDITION OF FABRIC

The Gilich (Stearns) net shed has been completely remodeled. It has retained its rectangular shape as is typical of the vernacular, but has very little visible original fabric.  The marina clubhouse that occupies the space is in good working condition.

 

SITE LAYOUT

As of 1999, “The Stearnses own four-and-one-half contiguous lots on the Gig Harbor waterfront, comprising 1.7 acres upland and 1.3 acres tidelands.”1 The Gilich (Stearns) net shed occupies one of those lots. The marina area is heavily landscaped and the net shed can be accessed via a large parking lot, where a paved path leads through the marina complex.

1 Stearns v. City of Gig Harbor. Court of Appeals Decision II, State of Washington. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.plcourt=wa&vol=229129&invol=o01

 

 

PART III -- OPERATIONS AND PROCESSES

The following refers to the operations and processes of the Gilich (Stearns) net shed in its historic context (pre-1985). It is not currently in use as a net shed.

 

OPERATIONS

Commercial fishing: purse seining.

 

MACHINES

Not known.

 
TECHNOLOGY

Purse Seine -- A purse seine is a large net hauled out by a smaller boat or “skiff” to form a large circle.  Fishermen pull the bottom of the netting, “pursing” it closed to capture schools of fish.  Once the net is pulled aboard by a “power block” or “reel”, the final length of net full of fish is either pulled on-board, or a smaller “brailing” net is used to scoop the catch and load it into the vessel’s hatch. A cannery boat or “tender” typically transfers the fish to the cannery. Historically, fishermen of Gig Harbor have used this method to catch salmon, sardine and herring.

Cotton Nets -- In the 1930s and 1940s, while the Stanich net shed was in high use, fishermen tarred their cotton seine nets in order to hold their shape and keep them from rotting. The community had a large vat where the Millville Marina (HAER No. WA-186-G) is now, where they would soak the netting in the hot tar, then wring the net in rollers, to be stacked in the back of trucks and spread it out in a nearby field. As the nets dried, the crew would take the net strips and spread them apart to prevent the pieces from sticking together. Typically the crew of the seining operation would do the tarring and mending of nets 2-3 months prior to leaving to fish, as part of overall preparations. Cotton nets would also need more mending and patching than nylon nets, which did not come into use until after WWII in the early 1950’s.

 

WORKERS

A crew of five men generally operate each purse seiner, though before the advent of nylon nets (post-WWII) and the power block (1954), seining crews were usually made up of 8 to 10 men.

 

ASSOCIATED VESSELS

Not known.

 

 

PART IV -- SOURCES OF INFORMATION

 

PRIMARY SOURCES

Interview with John Moist, Arabella’s Landing Manger, June 16, 2009

 

SECONDARY SOURCES

Ancich-Stanton, Lita Dawn. Gig Harbor Net Shed Survey. City of Gig Harbor, 2006.

Harbor History Museum photo archives. Accessed June 2009.

Lepow, Hannah. “Washington’s Fishing Sheds Get Boost.” National Trust for Historic Preservation. July 8, 2008. http://www.preservationnation.org/magazine/2008. Accessed June 2, 2009.

“Living on the Edge: Most Endangered Historic Properties List – 2008.” Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, 2008.

 

LIKELY SOURCES NOT YET INVESTIGATED

Interview with remaining members of the Gilich family.

 

 

Engineered Drawings -- Plan
Engineered Drawings -- Profile
Engineered Drawings -- Perspective
Misc Images
4x5 Prints