HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING SURVEY
GIG HARBOR NET SHEDS
MOJEAN NET SHED
(TARABOCHIA NET SHED)
HAER No. WA-186-Q
2788 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor, Pierce County, Washington
Nick Tarabochia, Jr.
General storage, net and tool storage, net repair, 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.
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 -- GIG HARBOR NET SHEDS
PHYSICAL HISTORY OF BUILDINGS
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION -- ca. 1907 (original shed), ca. 1943 (second adjoining shed), 1961 (third adjoining shed)
ARCHITECT / ENGINEER -- not known
BUILDER / CONTRACTOR / SUPPLIER -- Nick Tarabochia Sr. and Mike Gallagan (additions)
ORIGINAL PLANS -- none available
ALTERATIONS AND ADDITIONS
Future additions to the overall Mojean (Tarabochia) net shed occurred in stages, the first of which appears to be the attached south-facing shed and dock, followed by the northfacing shed and dock. Around 1942-1943 Nick Tarabochia Sr. applied to the War Department to build the south dock. In 1961 Nick Sr. and his fishing partner Mike Gallagan (a construction worker, pile driver and dock builder) built the north portion of the dock, with contains a small “bunkhouse” room that is used by visitors, often fishermen. The interior of the net shed has been reconfigured for multiple uses many times through the years, noted by the mixture of eras represented by fishing gear and ephemera. This structure was severely damaged in a landslide in the late 1970s to early 1980s, and the southwest portion of the nets shed’s exterior wall was re-built.
The earliest the original Mojean (Tarabochia) net shed may have been built is 1907. When repairing damage from a landslide to the west face of the building in the 1980’s, Nick Tarabochia Sr., lifted a piece of wood on one corner of the shed which revealed a carved “1907.” The shed was owned by the Mojean family until its purchase by the Tarabochia family around 1939 to 1941. The Mojean family had a boat construction and livery business. Reportedly they built flat bottom, two-person rowing skiffs that were popular throughout Puget Sound. When Nick Tarabochia Sr. bought the property it was being used as a workshop and to store nets. With the passing of ownership of the property to his son, Nick Jr., it is still being used for net and gear storage, net repair, and load/offload of nets and gear, as well as a social gathering place. Like many sons of Croatian fishermen in the area, Nick Jr. started fishing when he was 7 years old. He is now 62 and still leaves to gillnet fish each summer. Tarabochia Jr. stated that he can remember the days of pulling the heavy cotton nets up by hand. He would go with his father to take the nets to the family property, on the opposite side of town, where they would tar and lay out the nets. In this location, the Tarabochias had a side business of tarring nets for other fishermen that they loosely called “Tarabochia’s Tar Pots.” Tarabochia Jr. started seining in 1972 with f/v Chinook. (65 ft) He sold the Chinook in 1975 and purchased the 58 foot Kathy H which he seined in Puget Sound and tendered until 2006 in Bristol Bay. He has been fishing since 1992 with the Christine Jane, an aluminum Bristol Bay Gilnetter named after his daughter. The boat was christened at the Mojean (Tarabochia) net shed. Christine’s husband expressed interest in carrying on the family fishing legacy.
PART II -- STRUCTURAL / DESIGN INFORMATION
The Mojean (Tarabochia) net shed is approximately 4,320 square feet. The property is 72’-3” wide and 94’ long. The buildings are 72’-3” wide and 25’ long, 45’ wide and 29’ long, and 48’ wide and 32’ long.
Since the original building was without a dock and did not sit over water (it faces the water horizontally) there is question as to whether this original structure should be considered a net shed. According to the 1982 Pierce County Cultural Resource Survey, the Mojean (Tarabochia) net shed is, “A gable roof shed with an adjacent gable roof building, and shed roof building, mainly constructed of wood. A portion of the complex is on pilings over the water.” This description is still accurate, confirmed by a recent site visit. Due to multiple additions to the structure over close to a century, the shed is divided into three main sections. The original structure is the horizontal facing section abutting the bulkhead, which now serves as the entrance to the shed and a workshop. This portion of the shed now has a partitioned room to the south, as well as a functioning storage loft above the entire space. The south structure, built in the mid 1940s, shows markers every 60 feet, since the nets would be in 60 ft. sections. This portion of the overall net shed is used almost exclusively for traditional functions of the commercial fishing industry. The north space is occupied by a small room and appears to be used for general storage and as a social gathering place. Nick Jr. lived in the netshed from 1990 to 2000. The bunkhousewas originally designed for out-of-town crew members working on gear. The bunkhouse is still used as living space today.
2. CONDITION OF FABRIC
The Mojean (Tarabochia) net shed is in good working condition.
Unlike many of the other Gig harbor net sheds, the Mojean (Tarabochia) net shed lies outside of the harbor proper and is positioned over more land than water. (Thus, a fishing boat can only tie up to the shed at high tide.) At low tide a person has the ability to walk under the dock and through a series of pilings on the beach, some of which have been recently replaced. The view to the south is of South Puget Sound, and to the north, the entrance to Gig Harbor. The Skansie (Morris) net shed, HAER number WA-186-P, is the next structure along the shoreline to the north.
PART III -- OPERATIONS AND PROCESSES
Commercial fishing: gillnetting and purse seining.
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, prototyped by Marco Shipyards in Seattle, field tested by Puget Sound fishermen, and patented in the U.S. 1955.
“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 linch-pin in the mechanization of purse seining."1
1 “Puretic power block”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puretic_power_block
Gillnetting -- Gillnetting is a technique employing fine-filament nets that are lowered off the stern or bow of a boat and allowed to drift freely in deep water, entangling fish that swim into them. Floats hold up the top edge of the net, and the bottom is pulled down by a heavy lead line forming a wall in the water that entangles the fish by their gills. They are usually set across the path of migrating salmon.
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. A crew of five men generally operate each purse seiner. Prior to restrictions on large vessels, the advent of the nylon seine net and the power block in the 1940s and 1950s, seine vessels usually had crews of 8 to 10 men. There is at least one purse seiner and Tarabochia’s gillnetter operating off of the (Tarabochia) dock and utilizing the workspace of the net shed. These workers include Nick Tarabochia and his crew, with the additional purse seine vessel crew who lease use of the property. Tarabochia was in Alaska during the site visit, but three men were using the shed and docks for commercial fishing operations.
Commercial fishing operations, and net and fishing gear storage.
Nick Tarabochia Sr. -- Margaret J (purse seiner; partnered with Mike Gallagan), Phyllis T (purse seiner; named for his daughter), Planet (purse seiner), Nancy Rose (purse seiner; named after daughter, Nancy and wife, Rose), Al-H((purse seiner; named for Alva Hager, founder of New England Fish Company; sister ship to Barbara S), St. Dominick (purse seiner) JoAnne ((purse seiner; last boat before retiring).
Nick Tarabochia Jr. -- Chinook (purse seiner), Kathy H (purse seiner and tender), Jason B (gillnetter), Christine Jane(gillnetter)
PART IV -- SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Telephone interview with Nick Tarabochia Jr., 6-19-2009
Interview with Christine Tarabochia 6-19-2009
Interview with Bill Schweitzer, 6-19-2009.
Ancich-Stanton, Lita Dawn. Gig Harbor Net Sheds Survey. City of Gig Harbor, 2006.
Andrews, Mildred. “Andrews Group Report.” 2008.
“Living on the Edge: Most Endangered Historic Properties List – 2008.” Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, 2008.
Harbor History Museum photo archives.
Gallicci, Caroline. “Net Shed (PC-125-2a)” Pierce County Cultural Resource Survey, 1982.
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.
LIKELY SOURCES NOT YET INVESTIGATED
Nick Tarabochia Jr. oral history interview
Engineered Drawings -- Plan
Engineered Drawings -- Profile
Engineered Drawings -- Perspective 1
Engineered Drawings -- Perspective 2
Engineered Drawings -- Perspective 3