Ancich Park History
On August 6, 2012, the City Council authorized purchase of one of the last undeveloped waterfront properties along the shoreline to become a public park. It includes the original and historic netshed currently listed on the City’s Register of Historic Places.
History of the Site
Croatian immigrants Peter and Katie Ancich purchased the property from John Novak and built their over-water netshed in the 1920’s. Although the roof was replaced sometime in the late 1950’s, the modest architecture, method of construction, and siding materials exist largely in their original condition. A large 16-feet by 16-feet bait tank off of a tuna clipper was once located just above the netshed and used for tarring nets. Tar from Pacific Tar in Tacoma was brought in 50-gallon barrels and heated over a wood fire. The tank was removed in the early 1960’s after nylon replaced cotton web. There were two very large pear trees and a couple of apple trees that were cut down because space was needed to spread and dry the nets.
Peter and Katie had five children: Joe, John, Peter, Celia and Mary. Peter Sr. made his living as a commercial fisherman and his first fishing vessel (f/v) was the New World. The Invader and Voyager followed. Joe and Peter Jr. followed in their father’s footsteps and ran the Mary Joe. John ran company boats leased from the canneries. John’s son, John Jr. ran the Heritage -- the last boat to be tied at the Ancich Brothers dock. John Jr. died tragically when the Heritage ran aground in 2001. John Sr. died shortly after and the estate sold to private developers in 2005.
The parcel located on the east-most boundary of the site was originally owned by Nick and Ella (Markovich) Castelan. The Castelan’s first home (torn down in the late 1990's) was constructed in the early 1900’s. Later, it became known as the “honeymoon cottage” because so many newlyweds rented it over the years. After the property was passed to their children (through marriage), it became the Jerkovich parcel and was combined with the Ancich property when it sold in 2005. Today, an easement gives the family access to their floats and commercial fishing vessels.
Significance of Netsheds
As early as 1910, Gig Harbor’s first netsheds began appearing along the waterfront. Many families passed the netsheds and fishing vessels down for several generations. Of the remaining 17 netsheds along the shore, (as of 2015) seven are still used by local fishermen to store and repair their nets and gear. The Ancich netshed and its simple form, materials, and scale represents a typical netshed in Gig Harbor and is one of a cluster of five historic sheds along this section of working waterfront.
A purse seine is a large net used by a fishing vessels to catch fish. It is stretched out by a smaller boat or “skiff” to form a large circle. Once the “set” is complete, the weighted bottom or “leadline” of the net is pulled -- “pursing” it closed to capture fish. The net is then
pulled aboard by a “power block” or “reel” and the final length of a net full of fish is either pulled aboard or a smaller “brailing” net is used to scoop the catch and load it into the vessel’s hatch. A cannery boat or “tender” transfers the fish to the cannery for processing. Commercial fishermen of Gig Harbor use this method to catch salmon, sardine and herring.
In the late 1880’s, the life of a fisherman was hard. Their livelihood depended on fishing from small wooden boats in open waters. The men used oars and cotton net was pulled in by hand. To lengthen the life of the “web”, net was dipped in hot tar from pots heated over wood fires, stretched out to dry and finally, stored in netsheds. At the end of each season and to prevent rot, they were rinsed in “bluestone” (a copper sulphate preservative) and hung to dry. By the early 1950’s, (after WWII), nylon replaced cotton nets and gas-powered engines replaced the brute strength of the crew.