(Note: information as recorded in 2009)



3802 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor, Pierce County, Washington

Present Owner:  Andrew (Andy) Blair and Richard (Dick) Moller

Present Use:  

Net and tool storage, workshop, net repair, social gathering place


The seventeen extant net sheds in Gig Harbor, Washington, are significant as remnants ofthe community’s cultural heritage and economic development.  Families, mostly of Croatian ancestry, have passed down the net sheds and fishing vessels for severalgenerations. 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 repairingthe equipment used for commercial vessels.  Except for the remaining commercial fishing boats in the harbor, net sheds are the only surviving architectural connection between thecommunity and what was once one of the most successful fishing fleets on the west coast.


Shelly Leavens, summer 2009

Project Information:

The City of Gig Harbor has taken steps to provide incentives for property owners whoretain 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 theAndrews 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.  Thedocumentation team’s liaison to the net shed owners is the City of Gig Harbor’s Special Projects Coordinator, Lita Dawn Stanton.



ORIGINAL PLANS -- None known

Very little alteration has been made to the original structure.  Older additions prior to the purchase of the building by Andrew Blair and Richard Moller appear to be minimal, including a new interior door and potentially windows.  Don Gilich added a float along the face of the dockincluding an access ramp in the mid-1980’s.  After purchasing the property in 2000, Moller added several new dock beams to replace rotten planks and removed a pit toilet that had not been in use for many years.  In 2003-2004 he added new low floats thatextend into the harbor and are connected to the shed via ramp.  Moller and Blair are interested in eventually replacing the roof and potentially adding a new walkway alongthe south/west side of the shed.  


Josephine Novak, a member of the Puyallup tribe, married John Novak, one of the original settlers to the area. Tony Gilich arrived from Croatia in 1916, married a Novak daughter and son Don Gilich was born in 1920.  Josephine is thus the grandmother of Don Gilich, one of the eldest participants in this study, who is also a Puyallup tribal elder.  Tony kept his fishing nets at the Novak family net shed (no longer standing) and moored his boat at the Union Oil Dock until he built his own shed.  The net shed was built in 1933 and owned by Tony Gilich, until it was passed to his son Don.  According to Don Gilich, the lumber used to build the shed was salvaged from thelocal “Silver Glide” dance hall.  Don Gilich kept the vessel Victory moored there for many years. In the late 1990s, he sold the property to attorney John Paglia, who bought the property as an investment and moored his yacht at the dock. Paglia owned the property until his death, when it was purchased from his estate by Blair and Moller in 2000.



The Blair-Moller net shed property is 32’-6” by 95’2” and the building is 28’-9” by 45’-2”, approximately 1,305 square feet. 


The 1982 Pierce County Cultural Resource Survey described the structure as: “A one and one half story wood frame building with a gable roof and exposed rafter tails.  Window sare one over one double hung and single pane casement.  The building, as well as a dock area on the water side, rests on pilings.”  This description of the Gilich (Blair-Moller) netshed is still valid as confirmed by a recent site visit.  A walkway leads from Harborview Drive to the net shed and dock.  Large exterior doors located on the east face of the building are on upper rails and slide.  The main, interior net shed storage and work spaceis open in the middle for examining, mending and loading nets, while the interior perimeter has work benches with tools and shelving for storage.  Rafters store nets, long pieces of wood, and other large pieces of fishing gear.  An east-facing dock extends from the front of the shed for loading and unloading nets to vessels and at the end of this docka ramp leads to a low float where Moller and Blair keep their fishing vessels as well as lease moorage to other fishermen.  The north side of the shed has a covered walkway built by Gilich with a railing, revealing the exposed rafter tails of the gabled roof.


The Gilich (Blair-Moller) net shed is in good, functioning condition.


The Blair-Moller owned parcel (3802 Harborview Drive) occupies 400’ of waterfront.  A use area extending into the harbor from the shed is leased from Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and has floats and pilings used to moor fishingvessels.  According to the Andrews Group Report, the Gilich residence directly upland from the net shed has been demolished.  The adjacent parcel directly south is the Morin (Lovrovich) net shed, HAER No. WA-186-B.  The harbor parcel to the north is void of structures.



Commercial fishing: purse seining.


A large power block is affixed to the front of the building to haul and manage nets. The power block was invented by Croatian fisherman Mario Puratić and patented in 1953.

“The Puretic power block is a special kind of mechanizedwinch 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 Foodand 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 linch-pin in theme chanization of purse seining."1


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 o fnets 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.


Moeller and Blair own and work around the net shed property equally.  When Moller is out fishing, Blair is using the shed and docks.  Crews of five men generally operate each purse seiner. There are two purse seiners (one belonging to each owner) operating off of the Gilich (Blair-Moller) dock and utilizing the work space of the net shed.


Tony Gilich -- Indiana
Tony and Don Gilich -- purse seiner Victory, built by “Petrich” of Tacoma in 1920, named for Victory Day in Europe at the end of WWI.
Andy Blair -- purse seiner New Oregon, 1928
Dick Moller -- purse seiner Island Queen, built in Seattle in 1960 and acquired by Moller in 1990.


A -- Primary Sources 

Interview with Dick Moller, June 19, 2009.
Oral history interview with Don Gilich, October 27, 2009.

B -- Secondary Sources

Ancich-Stanton, Lita Dawn. “Gig Harbor Net Sheds Survey.” City of Gig Harbor, 2006.
Andrews, Mildred. “Andrews Report.” The Andrews Group, 2008.
Gallicci, Caroline. “Net Shed (PC-133-4a)” Pierce County Cultural Resource Survey,1982.
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.
1 “Puretic power block”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puretic_power_block

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