HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING SURVEY
GIG HARBOR NET SHEDS
ANCICH BROTHERS NET SHED
(CITY OF GIG HARBOR)
HAER No. WA-186-F
3518 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor, Pierce County, Washington
City of Gig Harbor
Not in active use. Now registered as a historic property under Resolution #743-A, adopted March 10, 2008 by Gig Harbor City Council.
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 was the City of Gig Harbor’s Special Projects Coordinator, Lita Dawn Stanton.
PART I -- HISTORICAL INFORMATION
PHYSICAL HISTORY OF BUILDINGS
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION -- 1954 (original net shed ca. 1928 – 1929 burned)
ARCHITECT / ENGINEER -- Peter Ancich Sr.
BUILDER / CONTRACTOR / SUPPLIER -- Peter Ancich Sr.
ORIGINAL PLANS -- none known
ALTERATIONS AND ADDITIONS
A water well on the site served the house that reportedly burned with the original net shed structure in the early 1920’s. Sources report that Peter built the second dock next to the location of the first in the 1930’s along with the family home up the street on Stinson at Harborview Drive. The covered shed was added. The shed had an approximately 500 square foot, attached, south-facing structure that abutted the bulkhead and served as the shed entrance. This structure was demolished in 2007, prior to the Gig Harbor Historic Register Nomination after the current investors purchased the site. A smaller dock (no shed) located about 20’ to 30’ east of the existing net shed preceded the current location. The new placement may have been to get to deeper water since the shed abuts to extreme low tide.
Peter Ancich Sr. built the shed, and his family owned and operated it for commercial fishing since its original construction in the late 1920s. He had four children: Cecelia, John, Joe, Peter and Mary. His son, Peter Ancich Jr., re-built the net shed in the 1950s, and worked with Joseph Ancich on various fishing vessels (see Associated Vessels below). Peter Jr. passed the property on to his nephew John Ancich Jr. Shortly after, John Ancich Jr. tragically died on his purse seiner (the Heritage) in 2001. Within a year, his father John died. The estate (Frank Ivanovich, executor) sold the property in 2005 to Bruce Steel of Rainier Yacht.1It was purchased by the City in August of 2012.
PART II -- STRUCTURAL / DESIGN INFORMATION
The Ancich net shed is approximately 1,068 square feet. The property is 43’-9” wide and 110’-11” long and the building is 24’ wide and 44’-5” long.
The architecture, method of construction and siding materials of the Ancich net shed and dock exists largely in its original condition. Typical of other local net sheds, the Ancich net shed plan is a simple wood frame rectangular structure with a gabled roof facing the harbor. The worn, deep red and brown colors of the wood exterior and metal roof give this net shed a unique historic appeal as compared to those that have been re-painted or kept in working condition over time. The building is one-story with an open dock extending into the harbor, both elevated and supported by pilings.
2. CONDITION OF FABRIC
The Ancich (Rainier Yacht) net shed is a “deteriorating wood gable structure.”2 The net shed should be entered with caution and is nearly empty, with only piles of nets and several additional supporting beams remaining. Floor deck beams are wood with gaps, cracks, and some boards missing. Exterior wall/siding material is horizontal single-plank wood (usually Douglas Fir), with wide gaps and cracks. The roof is corrugated metal, which is oxidizing and corroded. A large, east facing, sliding door (not functioning at the time of site visit) provides entry to the shed. According to the Workshop for Architecture and Design who did the Gig Harbor Historic Registry Nomination Survey, “The solid sawn wood timber structure (studs and trusses including exposed rafter tails and skip sheathing) is in fair condition.”
The Ancich net shed is one of a cluster of four sheds along this section of the harbor shoreline. The cluster includes the Ivanovich shed (HAER No. WA-186-D), the Bujacich shed (HAER No. WA-186-C) and the Ancich-Tarabochia shed to the north. The Ancich net shed is accessed via a small overgrown path from the west and a deteriorating, elevated wood plank leads to the door. An associated, overgrown gravel parking lot is located just upland from the shed, while debris is scattered along the tidelands.
The vacant uplands area and oral history indicate that the site once included a small house owned by the Castelan family, which burned in the early 1950s. A well was located onsite 15’ from the Anna Ancich property line, halfway down to the waterfront. Peter Ancich owned second-class tidelands (from John Novak) – low water to inner harbor line.3The faint remainder of grid irons can be seen located east of the site. These were used for copper painting of hulls at low tide.
PART III -- OPERATIONS AND PROCESSES
The following refers to the operations and processes of the Ancich net shed in its historic context. It is not currently in use.
When owned by the Ancich family, the net shed was only used for commercial fishing operations associated with 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.
For the Ancich (Rainier Yacht) net shed specifically, a 16’ x 16’ “bait tank” off of a tuna clipper (fishing vessel) was upland of the net shed for tarring nets. Tar from Tacoma (Pacific Tar) was brought in 50 gallon barrels and heated in the tank over a wood fire. There were two very large pear trees and two apple trees that were cut down because they needed space to dry the nets. The tank was removed in the 1960s.
With the advent of new fishing technologies, fewer crew are needed for commercial fishing operations. Currently, crews of five men operate each purse seiner, while traditionally it would require eight to ten.
New World purse seiner (1937): This is the first boat Peter Ancich owned. It was tied off on a piling at family property.
Invader purse seiner: The second boat Peter Ancich owned. Tied with New World. Partnered with Pete Skarponi since son Joseph was still to young to run it. After three to five years, Joe and Peter bought Pete’s share.
Mary Joe sardine boat: operated by Peter and Joe for two seasons.
Voyager purse seiner: Joe and Peter acquired this vessel in 1946. Sold and ran company boats thereafter.
Heritage (formerly the Julie S) purse seiner: operated in the mid-1990s by Joe’s nephew John Ancich Jr. who died tragically on the boat.4
1 City of Gig Harbor, Historic Register Description
2 Workshop for Architecture and Design City of Gig Harbor, Historic Registry Description, 2008.
3 Lita Dawn Stanton, January 31, 2008, interview with Frank Ivanovich and George Ancich.
Engineered Drawings -- Plan
Engineered Drawings -- Profile
Engineered Drawings -- Perspective