(Note: information as recorded in 2009)
MORIN NET SHED (LOVROVICH NET SHED) HAER No. WA-186-B
3811 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor, Pierce County, Washington
Present Owners: Gregg, Timothy, and Thomas Lovrovich
Net and tool storage, net repair, workshop, cooking, social gathering place.
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
A --PHYSICAL HISTORY OF BUILDINGS
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: 1951
ARCHITECT / ENGINEER: not known
BUILDER / CONTRACTOR / SUPPLIER: not known
ORIGINAL PLANS: not known
ALTERATIONS AND ADDITIONS
The net shed's inner harbor location is subject to low and minus tides. And although the shed could be accessed at high tide, this prevented use of the site for fishing vessel moorage. A new south-facing door leads to low, attached floats that were added for vessel moorage. This space extending into the harbor is leased from Washington State Department of Natural Resources since approximately 1996.
B -- HISTORICAL CONTEXT
One of Gig Harbor’s local fishing families, Martin (Sr.) and Mary Morin had the net shed built in the early 1950’s. Martin emigrated from the Island of Susak in the Adriatic Sea (Croatia). They had three children: Eunice (Vlahovich), Sonny (Martin Jr.) and Nick. Martin’s purse seiner, the Defiance was moored at the net shed. The shed had a kitchen and when nets were being constructed or repaired, the crew was served hot meals for lunch. Martin was said to always hire the best Croatian cook available. The dock was utilized for commercial purse seining operations until its sale to the Lovrovich brothers in 1994. The Lovrovich brothers are third generation Croatians with a long history of family purse seining. They each started fishing with their father, George Lovrovich, at the ages of 12 to 14, typical of other fishing families as well. Gregg Lovrovich, born in 1954, proudly noted that he was still one hundred percent Yugoslavian. His grandparents John Lovrovich and Dumica Malich emigrated from Croatia between 1912 and 1916.
Prior to purchasing the dock, the Lovrovich family used the Bujacich net shed (HAER No. WA-186-C) for vessel moorage and stored their nets and other fishing gear behind the Nick Babich home (cousin of Lovrovich brothers). Through the years, the Lovrovichs have moored their vessels at multiple docks in the harbor, including the Ancich dock (HAER No. WA-186-F), and have paid month by month for use. In addition to using the waterfront net shed, Gregg and Tim both have other storage sheds near their inland homes. The brothers noted that the shed only has enough space for one person’s fishing gear. As stated by Gregg, the Lovrovich family, as a fishing name, will end with the current generation of fishermen since none of the brothers have children that will carry on the family legacy.
PART II -- STRUCTURAL / DESIGN INFORMATION
A -- GENERAL DESCRIPTION
The Morin (Lovrovich) net shed is 2,025 square feet. The property is 22’-4” wide and 96’-4” long, and the building is 22’-4” wide and 90’ long.
From the 1982 Pierce County Cultural Resource Survey: “A single story wood frame building with a gable roof and exposed rafter tails. There is a small gable roof building on the rear with a walkway leading to it. The entire complex is on pilings. Windows are six pane casement. On the water side there is a recessed porch area which has wood post supports. The posts are on an enclosed railing.” This description of the Morin (Lovrovich) net shed is still valid as confirmed by a recent site visit. Additionally, all interior and exterior doors are on upper rails and slide. The interior of the west facing, inner room is a usable kitchen filled with family memorabilia and ephemera. The main, interior net shed storage and work space is open in the middle for examining, mending and loading nets, while the interior perimeter has work benches with tools, shelving for storage and an unused pit toilet. Exposed 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. By exiting out of a south facing door of the shed, a ramp leads to a low float where the Lovrovich brothers keep their fishing vessels as well as lease moorage to other fishermen. There are four windows on the south facing wall of the shed.
2. CONDITION OF FABRIC
The Morin (Lovrovich) net shed is in good, functioning condition.
B -- SITE LAYOUT
The Lovrovich owned parcel is situated at the northern end of the harbor and the parcel starts at 6.92’ at Harborview Drive, then extends out in a pie shape to about 12’ on either side of the dock into Gig Harbor (44.6’ at its widest point). Parcels A and B, extending from the shed are leased from Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and have floats and pilings used for fishing vessels. According to Gregg Lovrovich, the family has grandfathered free, multi-vehicle parking on the street as long as the shed is used for fishing purposes. There is no home on the uplands associated with this net shed. The adjacent parcel directly north and parallel is the Gilich (Blair-Moeller) net shed (HAER No. WA-186-A). The harbor parcel to the south is void of structures.
PART III -- OPERATIONS AND PROCESSES
A -- OPERATIONS
Commercial fishing: purse seining
B -- MACHINES
A large power block is affixed and hangs at the front of the building to haul and manage nets. The power block was invented by Croatian fisherman Mario Puratić and patented in 1954.
“The Puretić 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 Puretić 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 seine net hauling" than the power block, which was "the lynch-pin in the mechanization of purse seining."1
C -- 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 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.
D -- WORKERS
A crew of five men operate each purse seiner. There are three purse seiners (one belonging to each Lovrovich brother) operating off of the Morin (Lovrovich) dock and utilizing the work space of the net shed. In the early 1960s, the Lovrovichs would fish with a crew of seven, and now fish with crews of five, including the Skipper. Gregg Lovrovich cited this as an indication of the advent of fishing technology, as well as marking the decline to the industry. He also cited the Boldt Decision as a major reason there are increasingly fewer fishing families left operating in Gig Harbor. He continued to say that in order to be a successful fisherman, one needs to devote all of his/her time, year round, to commercial fishing. The Lovrovich brothers currently spend two and one-half months fishing in Alaska (leaving mid-June, depending on the season) and one month in the Puget Sound. The also work for shipyards in the off-season.
E -- ASSOCIATED VESSELS
Martin Morin Sr. -- Purse seiner Defiance, built by Kazulin boat buildings in Tacoma with the help of sons, Nick and Sonny.
George Lovrovich -- Purse seiner Alaskan worked cannery boat Mark R., Purse seiner Tradition (passed to Tom) , Purse seiner Sea Gem, sold in 2002
Gregg Lovrovich -- Purse seiner Sea Fury
Tim Lovrovich -- Purse seiner Harbor Gem
Tom Lovrovich -- Purse seiner Tradition
PART IV -- SOURCES OF INFORMATION
A -- Primary Sources
Oral history interview with Gregg Lovrovich, where brothers Thomas and Timothy were
B -- Secondary Sources
Ancich-Stanton, Lita Dawn. Gig Harbor Net Sheds Survey. City of Gig Harbor, 2006.
Andrews, Mildred. “Andrews Group Report.” The Andrews Group. 2008.
Bolton, Jack. “Record of Survey Parcel # 0221053091” Pierce County Auditor. 1996.
Gallicci, Caroline. “Net Shed (PC-133-3a)” 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.
Engineered Drawings -- Plan
Engineered Drawings -- Profile
Engineered Drawings -- Perspective