HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING SURVEY
GIG HARBOR NET SHEDS

PURATICH NET SHED

HAER No. WA-186-H

 

LOCATION

3421 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor, Pierce County, Washington

 

PRESENT OWNERS

Joseph and Robert Puratich

 

PRESENT USE

Net and tool storage, workshop

 

SIGNIFICANCE

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.

 

HISTORIAN

Shelly Leavens, summer 2009

 

PROJECT INFORMATION

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. 1920s (original shed burned) Ca. 1950 (current net shed)
ARCHITECT / ENGINEER -- Not known
BUILDER / CONTRACTOR / SUPPLIER -- Paul Puratich
ORIGINAL PLANS -- None known.
ALTERATIONS AND ADDITIONS

Interviews with the Puratich brothers revealed that there was an original net shed that burned in the 1930s or 1940s. Their father, Paul Puratich re-built the new net shed to extend further into the harbor and extended the roof to cover a section of dock, “the runway,” on the south side of the building. They also noted that at one time, the building had a tin roof and tin siding. The Puratich brothers have altered the current net shed very little since it was built. However, they have kept the shed well maintained for active use as a commercial fishing structure, and plan to continue to do so, which could result in future modification. They noted the desire to continue to have the ability to drive a forklift on the dock, which means it must be well maintained and strong. Due to the diverse nature of the Puratich fishing business and the relatively small size of the original net shed, in 1992 the Puratich brothers built a new, larger upland net shed, approximately 3,024 square feet. This shed is now their primary workspace for repairing and building nets, but was not subject to HAER survey documentation. Like nearly all the net sheds in Gig Harbor, the Puratich shed is subject to tidal fluctuations that only allow a boat to be pulled up at end of the shed’s dock at mid to high tide (for loading and unloading nets and gear to the shed). To allow for consistent moorage, in 2005, the Puratich brothers contracted Marine Floats to add an aluminum ramp (4’x50’) leading to two low floats (6’x150’) and (6’x40). At the time, they also replaced seven pilings.

 

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

The Puratich family immigrated to Gig Harbor from Croatia ca. 1918. The original family home on the historic Millville Plat was located directly adjacent and to the south of the current Puratich site. Paul Puratich inherited the property from his father, which included a home, the pier, net shed and dock for the family fishing business. Sons Robert and Joseph began fishing with their father around age ten and have continued in the business since. Unlike most of the other fishing families still living in Gig Harbor, the Puratich family continues to seine fish Pollock, sardines, and salmon, trawl and pod fish for cod, catch Dungeness crab, and squid. This results in the Puratich brothers being away from Gig Harbor for seven to nine months out of the year. With such a large operation, their current storage needs are not fulfilled by the two net sheds in Gig Harbor, and therefore have storage in ports up and down the west coast. Joe and Bob estimated that 90% of their fishing gear (mostly nets) is stored somewhere else.

 

 

PART II -- STRUCTURAL / DESIGN INFORMATION

GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The Puratich net shed is 1,649 square feet. The property is 34’ wide and 60’ long and the building is 34’ wide and 48’-6” long.

 

1. CHARACTER

The Puratich net shed is a single story wood frame building with a low pitch gable roof. Small double-hung windows are found on two sides of the structure, all are original, six pane casement. Exterior walls are horizontal wood siding. Unique to the Puratich shed, entrance to the shed is accessible from an open, covered dock area on the south side of the structure, where a large door on an upper rail slides open. There is an additional large sliding door on the end facing the harbor. An east-facing dock extends from the front of the shed for loading and unloading nets to vessels. The main, interior net shed storage and workspace is filled with tools, hardware and fishing gear, organized on a shelving system, while the interior perimeter has work benches with tools, and more shelving for storage. Exposed rafters inside and outside of the shed store long pieces of wood, and other large pieces of fishing gear. Almost all on-site nets are stored in the large upland shed, which has an interior power block and forklift for managing the nets.

 

2. CONDITION OF FABRIC

The Puratich net shed is in good, functioning condition

 

SITE LAYOUT

A long driveway from Harborview Drive stretches alongside and provides access to (in order) a garage, a large upland net shed, a house and a long pier. The pier extends over the tidelands and leads to the original Puratich net shed and dock. From the east-facing end of the open dock area, an aluminum ramp (4’x50’) leads to two low floats (6’x150’) and (6’x40). The Puratich net shed property is bordered directly to the north by Millville Marina Condominiums (the Castelan Jerkovich (Rencowski) net shed HAER No. WA-186-G) and the Ancich (Ellsworth) net shed (HAER No. WA-186-I) can be seen two lots to the south.

 

 

PART III -- OPERATIONS AND PROCESSES

OPERATIONS

Commercial fishing: purse seining, trawling, long line.

 

MACHINES

A large power block is affixed and hangs at the front of the new, upland Puratich net shed to haul and manage nets. The power block was invented by Croatian fisherman Mario Puratić and patented in 1954.

“The Puratić 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 Puratić 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

 

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 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.

 

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 1950s, the Puratich family would fish with a crew of seven, and now fish with a crew of five, including Bob and Joe who work the same boat (F/V Marauder). The Puratich brothers currently spend nine months of the year fishing along the west coast, mostly in Alaska and California (leaving mid-June, depending on the season).

 

ASSOCIATED VESSELS

Paul Puratich -- purse seiner Emancipator, 1918. purse seiner St. Anthony

Joe and Bob Puratich -- purse seiner St. Anthony, sold in 1991 purse seiner Marauder, built 1991. While a purse seiner, the vessel serves the purposes of multiple types of commercial fishing along the west coast, including (but not limited to) sardine, anchovy, salmon, Pollock, crab and cod.

 

 

PART IV -- SOURCES OF INFORMATION

PRIMARY SOURCES

Oral history interview with Joseph and Robert Puratich

Interview with Regina Puratich

 

SECONDARY SOURCES

Ancich-Stanton, Lita Dawn. Gig Harbor Net Sheds Survey. City of Gig Harbor, 2006.

Andrews, Mildred. “Andrews Group Report.” 2008.

Bolton, Jack. “Record of Survey Parcel #5970000131” Pierce County Auditor. 2000.

Harbor History Museum photo archives, Image No. HV-283-GH. 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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