HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING SURVEY
GIG HARBOR NET SHEDS
CASTALON-JERKOVICH NET SHED
(RENCOWSKI NET SHED)
HAER No. WA-186-G
8200 Novak Street, Gig Harbor, Pierce County, Washington
Millville Marina Condominium Storage Lockers
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.
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 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
ARCHITECT / ENGINEER -- not known
BUILDER / CONTRACTOR / SUPPLIER -- not known
ORIGINAL PLANS -- none known
ALTERATIONS AND ADDITIONS
The Castelan-Jerkovich (Rencowski) net shed has been significantly altered due to its remodel and conversion to the Millville Marina Condominiums storage space. The roof, siding, doors, windows, interior, and decking have all been either covered, removed or replaced.
Nick and Mike Castelan and John Jerkovich, Sr. built the net shed and dock for commercial fishing use in the 1930s. Prior to building the net shed the two families (related through marriage) utilized vacant lots near their homes to organize and dry their nets and gear before and after setting out to seine fish the Puget Sound and Alaskan waters. The Castelan Brothers and Jerkovich Sr. sold the net shed to Ron Ray, who converted the property to a condominium development. The development was sold to Gary Glein, who then sold to Alan Rencowski, the current owner.
PART II -- STRUCTURAL / DESIGN INFORMATION
The Castelan-Jerkovich (Rencowski) net shed is approximately 2,070 square feet. The property is 38’ wide and 113’ long and the building is 25’-4” wide and 81’-6” long. The roof was lowered to allow for view form the Condos by Ron Ray in the 1950’s.
The original character of the net shed is unknown, though it can be inferred that when it was used as a net shed it was much like the others in the area – a simple, gabled roof wood structure on pilings with one large room and an associated house and dock. Jay Jerkovich (descendant of John Sr.) recalls that the dock was extended around 1947 to accommodate moorage for boats to tie-up on all tides. Prior to that, pilings in deeper water were used. It is now a completely remodeled structure, though the original rectangular wood frame is intact.
2. CONDITION OF FABRIC
In its completely remodeled state, the Castelan-Jerkovich (Rencowski) net shed is in good, but non-original condition. Other than framing, some siding and some decking, very little original fabric is left.
The Millville Marina Condominiums lie just upland from the net shed, which is now used as storage lockers for the condominium owners. In order to access the former net shed, one must walk down a private path through the Millville Marina property, or access the associated east or south docks by boat.
PART III -- OPERATIONS AND PROCESSES
The following refers to the operations and processes of the Castelan-Jerkovich (Rencowski) net shed in its historic context (pre-1980). It is not currently in use as a net shed.
Commercial fishing: purse seining
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.
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.
John Jerkovich -- purse seiner Washington, purse seiner New Washington, 86ft sardine boat Pacific Raider, 82ft sardine boat Corregido
Tom Jerkovich -- Pacific Mistress
John Jerkovich -- Pacific Dawn
Nick Jerkovich -- built purse seiner Pacific Knight
Nick Jerkovich Jr. -- purse seiner Pacific Raider
PART IV -- SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Oral history interview with George Ancich, June 18, 2009.
Ancich-Stanton, Lita Dawn. Gig Harbor Net Sheds Survey. City of Gig Harbor, 2006.
Andrews, Mildred. “Andrews Group 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.
LIKELY SOURCES NOT YET INVESTIGATED
Interview with Nick Jerkovich Jr.
Interview with current owner Alan Rencowski
Interviews with former owners Ron Ray or Gary Glein.
Engineered Drawings -- Plan
Engineered Drawings -- Profile
Engineered Drawings -- Perspective