HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING SURVEY
GIG HARBOR NET SHEDS
ANCICH-TARABOCHIA NET SHED
HAER No. WA-186-E
3615 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor, Pierce County, Washington
George Ancich and Nick Tarabochia, Jr.
Shed is partitioned for leased office space and the art studio of Lita Dawn Ancich-Stanton (daughter of George Ancich). Exterior dock used as net and tool storage.
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 extant 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 (current shed)
ARCHITECT / ENGINEER: Not known.
BUILDER / CONTRACTOR / SUPPLIER: “Zulavich”
ORIGINAL PLANS: None known.
ALTERATIONS AND ADDITIONS
Renovation to the structure are only known post-1955. When the coast guard was leasing the space in 1971-72 the shed received new siding and windows. Use of the outdoor space by the Coast Guard required that the net be moved further out so the dock extension was covered. Floorboards have remained original, but the remainder of the interior has been altered significantly including partitioning the once open space to multiple rooms. adding a ceiling over open rafters, and placing drywall over the frame. The dock was extended in 1957 and another section added on 10 years later. In 1962, a low float and ramp were added extending from the shed’s dock to moor boats in harbor. The addition of the pier provided drive on access for loading and unloading net and gear during higher tides. Since the early 1970’s, the dock has been used by the local commercial fishing fleet to load-unload net and gear at the start and end of each season. Other exterior maintenance includes occasional replacement of pilings and rotted boards, and a new roof in 2004.
In the early 1900s, two men named Ancich, Martin and Peter, left Yugoslavia for America. Though not directly related, they both built netsheds along the same stretch shoreline (HAER No. WA-186-F) in Gig Harbor. Meanwhile George Ancich’s grandmother was living in Croatia, had just lost her husband and was left with three little girls, Kathrine the eldest (married Karabaich), Anna (married Ancich), Mary (married Vodonovich). She heard from a friend in Tacoma, Washington that there was a husband for her, so she immigrated with her daughters through Ellis Island and crossed the United States on a train. She married into the Tadich family and had three more children, Andy, Katie and John. Martin Ancich established himself in the fishing industry in the early 1900’s. He partnered with Lee Makovich Sr. in 1908 to construct and operate the 45 ft Sokol, constructed by Barbare Brothers Shipyard. They sold it in 1913. The vessel sank, was raised and burned in Alaska in 1990. Later Martin owned theMermaid and partnered again with Makovich to build the 50 ft Mermaid II. In 1927, Martin built the 66 ft George Aat Skansie Shipyard named for his youngest son, George. Martin and Anna married and had six children: Antone, Rose (married Tarabochia), Jack, Nick, Kay (married Franich) and George born in 1925. Martin tragically died two years later. Left a widow, Anna’s keen business sense kept fishing operations going and her son Jack crewed with skipper Johnnie Ross on the George A. By 1937, Anna had the 75 ft sardine boat Anna A constructed at Tacoma’s J.M. Martinac Shipyard. Women negotiating contracts, leasing the boat and keeping it working in one fishery or another was unheard of at the time but Anna held her own for the family. By 1940, Antone was running the Anna A for sardine in San Pedro with his youngest brother, George. By 18, George was skippering the boat as a dragger off the Washington Coast. In 1967 the Anna A was sold. George fished the San Juan Island Salmon Banks known as the “Trap” with his brotherin- law, Nick Tarabochia, while he was still in high school in the early 1940s. They partnered in fishing for a couple of years until Nick bought a dock at the south end of the harbor (HAER No. WA-186-Q). George Ancich and sister Rose (Ancich) Tarabochia leased the dock and shed to the Coast Guard, and after one year, they rented the original family home as well which became the Chief’s quarters and office. George Ancich and his nephew, Nick Tarabochia Jr., still own the dock together and currently the space is partitioned for use as an office, an art space for George’s daughter Lita Dawn Stanton, and fishing gear for son Paul Ancich who now owns and operates what was once George’s boat, Memories. George expressed frustration with the value of property in Gig Harbor and the cost of keeping the shed, saying “the taxes are eating us alive.” However, he also noted that he is not in the market to sell the property but would rather pass it on to his children, and that he wants his children to keep it in the family for historic value.
PART II -- STRUCTURAL / DESIGN INFORMATION
The Ancich-Tarabochia net shed is 1,550 square feet. The property is 36’ wide and 88’- 2” long and the building is 26’-6”wide and 58’-4” long.
The character of the original Ancich-Tarabochia shed is not known. According to George Ancich, the original structure was made of local fir and hemlock. The net shed falls within the vernacular of the area, as a single story wood frame building with a gable roof and exposed rafter tails. The entire shed and dock are on pilings. On the east facing harbor side there is a recessed porch area, which has wood post supports. In this area are nets and other fishing gear belonging to Paul Ancich. The main, interior net shed is partitioned into five to six rooms, including a bathroom, a hallway, office spaces and an art studio. From the dock a ramp leads to a low float where Ancich and Tarabochia lease moorage to recreational and commercial fishing vessels.
2. CONDITION OF FABRIC
In its remodeled state, the Ancich-Tarabochia net shed is in good condition.
A large driveway upland and along the south portion of the property leads past a house to a pier dock, and provides walk-in access to a covered area of the Ancich-Tarabochia net shed dock. As part of a cluster of four net sheds, the Ancich-Tarabochia net shed is bordered directly to the north by the Ivanovich net shed (HAER No. WA-186-D), and to the south by the Ancich (Rainier Yacht) net shed (HAER No. WA-186-F) on the other side of the pier.
PART III -- OPERATIONS AND PROCESSES
Commercial fishing: 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.
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.
Martin Ancich -- Sokol, Mermaid, Mermaid II, George A
Anna Ancich -- Anna A
Antone Ancich -- Sea Star
Jack Ancich -- Jackie A (originally Phyllis T owned by Nick Tarabochia Sr. and renamed)
George Ancich -- Starlight, Barbara S and (for a short time) the purse seiner Defiance. The Memories was passed to his only son, Paul Ancich, after he retired in 1989.
Paul Ancich -- Memories. Sons, Paul Jr. and Jake fish with their father.
PART IV --SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Oral history interview with George Ancich.
Whitney, Ross. Video-taped interview with George Ancich, George Bujacich, Nick
Tarabochia, and Andy Blair in the Skansie Net Shed. August 27, 2008.
Ancich-Stanton, Lita Dawn. Gig Harbor Net Sheds Survey. City of Gig Harbor, 2006.
Andrews, Mildred. “Andrews Group Report.” The Andrews Group, 2008.
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.
Makovich, Lee. Fisherman’s News “Turning a Dream Into Reality, Martin and Anna Ancich”, January 2000.
LIKELY SOURCES NOT YET INVESTIGATED
Engineered Drawings -- Plan
Engineered Drawings -- Profile
Engineered Drawings -- Perspective