July 30, 2008

Gig Harbor’s Waterfront History Gets Some Help

By Brian Everstine, The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash.

Jul. 30--The netsheds in Gig Harbor are a symbol of the city's history, a sign reminding the area of the hard work that went into building the community. But the maritime barns, some of which have been standing for almost a century, need attention, and a $15,000 grant and a project to preserve them might change that.

"A lot of people don't know the value and the long history they represent for the city," said Lita Dawn Stanton, historic preservation coordinator for the city.

The 17 netsheds have been named to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation's 2008 Most Endangered Historic Properties List, and the city got a $15,000 grant from the state Department of Archaeology to survey the structures.

The federal government provides funding for certified city agencies to use for preservation, said Allison Brooks, head of the Archaeology Department. This project is one of about 15 provided per year.

With the grant, the city will document each structure and record its history, which will be filed in the Library of Congress.

Immigrants who came to Gig Harbor more than 100 years ago built the sheds that dot the area's waterfront. The buildings were used to store nets and other equipment in addition to being a place where fishermen and their families congregated.

"They are still going on, still in use," Stanton said. "They are living history."

Gregg Lovrovich and his brothers bought a netshed in the 1990s, and the building still gets heavy use by his family. It's where they work on their boats, and the center point of their fishing. His shed is one of the newer ones, having been built in the 1950s.

"If you take away the sheds that are there, you take away the face of Gig Harbor," Lovrovich said. "It has been changed already, but it is nice to preserve a little bit of history."

The best-known netshed stands in Skansie Brothers Park, a structure that originally belonged to the four Skansie brothers from an island off the coast of Croatia. The city bought the family's home and their netshed in 2003. The buildings will be open to the public this summer.

Though the preservation list carries no legal weight, it helps in obtaining grants such as this, and letting the public know the worth of some relatively unknown buildings, said Cathy Wickwire, program associate for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

"It is an incentive to property owners to preserve these buildings," Wickwire said.

Gig Harbor has hired a consultant to research the netsheds, and a report should be ready next year.

Brian Everstine: 253-597-8374


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