(Note: information as recorded in 2009)
BUJACICH NET SHED HAER No. WA-186-C
3625 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor, Pierce County, Washington
Present Owners: Jack and George Bujacich
Nets, tools, and miscellaneous fishing gear storage.
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 relatively few 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.
Shelly Leavens, summer 2009
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 study of the net sheds. 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
A -- PHYSICAL HISTORY OF BUILDINGS
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: 1950
ARCHITECT / ENGINEER: not known
BUILDER / CONTRACTOR / SUPPLIER: George Bujacich and Jake Bujacich
ORIGINAL PLANS: none known
ALTERATIONS AND ADDITIONS
Installed new low floats (yr?), but no alterations to the shed itself.
B -- HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Jake Bujacich and father, George Bujacich were in the fishing business and actively using this shed off and on from 1948. Jake partnered with childhood friend George Ancich (Ancich-Tarabochia HAER WA-186-E) in multiple fishing endeavors through the 1970s. Jake Bujacich’s son fished with them in his younger years, but did not take over fishing business, but went into the tug-boat business instead.
Jake Bujacich did not use the fishing business as a primary source of income, he also worked in the public sector as a policeman and as Gig Harbor’s mayor, among other things.
The net shed has always been used as storage, but every year Jake would host a preseason and postseason picnics for the community with barbequed salmon, clam bakes, cocktail parties and poker games.
Adjacent grass area had a tar pit that many of the local fishermen would use, who would then utilize shared upland fields to lay out the nets to dry. The Bujacich family still owns several of the adjacent properties.
PART II: STRUCTURAL / DESIGN INFORMATION
A -- GENERAL DESCRIPTION
The size of the Bujacich net shed is 3,128 square feet. Parcel is 27’-6” wide and 72’ long, building is 34’ wide and 94’ long.
The Bujacich net shed is a corrugated metal, gabled roof structure, extending into the harbor and built entirely on pilings. Abutting the shoreline is a large sliding door as the front face of the structure, on which a typical door is installed as the main entrance. The shed is entirely open inside (not partitioned) and does not have a rear wall, but opens to a dock space in the harbor. The walls of the shed only extend half of the structure’s length, and each have three six-pane casement windows. The remaining sides do not have full walls, but instead are covered posts and beams with netting that hangs down the outside from the roof. A ramp and low float extend off the northeast side of this dock, with several boats moored there. The interior of the shed is lined with shelving for tools and the rafters still hold old cotton nets and cork floats. At the time of the survey, the shed was primarily being used for storage, but not to store or repair actively used fishing nets.
CONDITION OF FABRIC
The Bujacich net shed is in good to moderate condition.
B -- SITE LAYOUT
The Bujacich net shed is one of a cluster of four sheds along this section of the harbor shoreline. The first shed of this group was the shed neighboring to the east, the Ancich shed (HAER No. WA-186-F), built in the 1920s. The neighboring Ivanovich shed (HAER No. WA-186-D) was built in ca. 1939-1940, just to the west.
A wide gravel driveway leads to the shed from Harborview Drive. There is a house associated with the shed directly upland to the southwest. The unused Ivanovich net shed and dock are located directly to the south, while a substantial lot on the north shoreline is undeveloped, but for sale.
PART III: OPERATIONS AND PROCESSES
The following refers to the operations and processes of the Bujacich net shed in its historic context. It is not currently in use other than for storage.
A -- OPERATIONS
Commercial fishing: purse seining.
B -- MACHINES
The power block was invented by Croatian fisherman Mario Puratić and patented in 1953.
“The Puretic power block is a special kind of mechanized winch used to haul nets on fishing vessels. The power block is a large powered aluminum pulley with a hard rubber-coated sheave. While many men were needed for the back-breaking work of hauling a purse seine manually, the same work could be done by fewer men with a power block.
The Puretic power block revolutionized the technology of hauling fishing nets, particularly purse seine nets. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), "no single invention has contributed more to the success of purse seinenet hauling" than the power block, which was "the lynch-pin in the mechanization of purse seining."
C -- TECHNOLOGY
A purse seine is a large wall of netting that encircles a school of fish. Fishermen pull the bottom of the netting closed, herding the fish into the center. Purse seiners either haul the net aboard or bring it alongside the boat to scoop out the fish with smaller nets. The fishermen of Gig Harbor use this method to catch schooling fish, such as sardines or salmon.
D -- WORKERS
A crew of five men generally operate each purse seiner. Prior to restrictions on large vessels, the advent of the nylon seine net and the power block in the 1940s and 1950s, seine vessels usually had crews of 8 to 10 men.
E -- ASSOCIATED VESSELS
George and Jake Bujacich: purse seiner Majestic, 65’ boat built in Skansie Shipyard, sister ship to Shenandoah. The family fished with this vessel from 1951 through the 1970s.
PART IV: SOURCES OF INFORMATION
A -- Primary Sources
Oral history interview with Jake Bujacich, Sr., where George Ancich was present. June 18, 2009.
Whitney, Ross. Video-taped interview with George Ancich, George Bujacich, Nick Tarabochia, and Andy Blair in the Skansie Net Shed. August 27, 2008.
B -- Secondary Sources
Ancich-Stanton, Lita Dawn. Gig Harbor Net Sheds Survey. City of Gig Harbor, 2006.
Andrews, Mildred. “Andrews Group Net Sheds Report.” The Andrews Group. 2008.
Harbor History Museum photo archives. Accessed June 2008.
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.