Babich (Peter)


2700 Harborview Drive

Gig Harbor, WA 98335

Present Owner

Joseph Pond

Present Use

Social gathering place


Shelly Leavens, summer 2009

Part I -- Historical Information

Physical History of Buildings     

  2. ARCHITECT / ENGINEER -- Not known.
  3. BUILDER / CONTRACTOR / SUPPLIER -- Spiro Babich, Vince Skansie and others from the community.
  4. ORIGINAL PLANS -- None known.
    1. Ca. 1970s Peter Babich added a wall to reinforce the merging of the two  sheds and provide a windbreak, replaced some windows and added another dry dock ramp (underwater grid) to work on his power skiff or other  small boats. In 1971 Randy replaced the shingle roof with anodized steel  laid over the original low pitch gable frame. Recent major changes were  made to make the shed seismically stable. The Babich (Pond) shed is the  only one in gig harbor with this feature. Randy contracted for a study of the piles (using core samples) and found that eight needed replaced.  All of the piles under the dock have 6 inch by 8 inch cross bracing with  through-bolts, 15 creosote piles were replaced with steel piles and  those that could not be replaced were given “inserts” for stabilization. Recent minor additions (2000 to 2008) include, adding surface material  to the dock for an anti-skid surface in wintertime, replacing the ramp  that leads to a to low float with a steel version that has grating for more light to fish, and the addition of new low float in 2007. Randy  estimates that he has invested about $500,000 in renovation, maintenance, taxes and insurance during his ownership of the shed. With  the sale of the Babich (Pond) net shed to Joe Pond in 2008, Randy also gave him plans for an additional $90,000 in possible renovations. Electricity was built in to the original shed, but during the subsequent 2008 remodel, the shed’s electricity was upgraded – it formerly had one  200-amp service, and Pont added another line so that his boat and the  others moored on the low float could have shorepower. Pond also added a handrail on the ramp leading to the dock, changed the timbers along the sides of the dock and placed brackets around the piles. For the interior, Pont removed all evidence of net shed use, added new flooring over the original timbers, and painted the entire building.

Historical Context

The Babich family is related matrilineally to the original settlers of Gig Harbor, the Samuel Jerisch family that immigrated in 1869. Spiro Babich, (grandfather of informant Randy Babich) was born in Croatia, and immigrated to the United States in 1910. The entire Babich property historically consisted of a house, a garage, two net sheds, associated docks, and waterfront land. Spiro Babich and his wife Julia (Skansie) purchased the property and built the house in 1934, and the shed and dock in 1938. The second shed was built  in 1941. Spiro’s original craftsman-style home is upland from the shed. Spiro died at age 67, in 1957. He fished for salmon and anchovies  commercially from age 20 to 67. Sardines are harvested in the winter and salmon in the summer, so his family lived in both Gig Harbor and  California. Spiro left the house and original northerly net shed (HAER  No. WA-186-N) to his son Paul and the newer southerly net shed to his  son Peter. Peter Babich was born in 1929, and started fishing with his  father at age 15 as a summer job. Spiro and sons fished mostly in the San Juan’s, but when Peter was 24, he bought a boat and went to False  Pass, Alaska in the Aleutians. He fished in Alaska for the remainder of  his career. Peter left the shed to his son Randy who had started purse  seining at age 15 ½. At the time, the mean age on the boat was 53. The crews in general were older and professional. Randy commented that the professionalism of fishermen has declined and this has been a major shift in the industry. The Babich family linkages to the fishing community are quite strong. Brothers Nick, Andy, and Mike Babich are Randy’s cousins, and Joe and Bob Puratich (HAER No. WA- 186-X) are his  2nd cousins. All of these men are currently running commercial purse seiners. Wes Rickard owns the original adjacent Babich net shed, see  HAER No. WA-186-N.

Part II --Structural / Design Information

General Description

The Babich (Pond) net shed is  approximately 4,525 square feet. The property is 24’ wide and 115’-7”  long, and the building is 24’ wide and 83’-8” long.

1. Character

The 1982 Pierce County Cultural Resource Survey described  the net sheds as: “A complex of wood frame buildings situated mainly on  pilings over water. Windows are six pane casement. The open areas have wood post supports and wood bracing.” This description of the Babich (Pond) net shed is still valid as confirmed by a recent site visit. The main, interior net shed has been cleared of its original contents, is open in the middle and nearly empty except for chairs and a table. French doors open to the covered portion of the shed. An east-facing dock extends from the front of the shed for (traditionally) loading and unloading nets to vessels and at the end of this dock a ramp leads to a low float with leased vessel moorage. Stringers are exposed, rough cut, old growth Douglas fir out of Gig Harbor. No serious modifications have been made to the original frame. One of the most unique aspects of the Babich net sheds are that they are oriented along the harbor in an area of the tidal zone that allows boats to be moored directly at the associated docks at all times.

2. Condition of Fabric

The Babich (Pond) net shed has a  strong original fabric, and is in excellent condition, considering the  recent maintenance and its conversion to a social gathering place.

Site Layout

A path leads from a parking area along the  south side of the net shed, and a new ramp leads to a door to enter the  shed. One can also walk around the west (shoreline) side of the building  to go to the Babich (Rickard) net shed. The two Babich net sheds lie on  the south end of Gig Harbor.

Part III -- Operations & Processes

The following refers to the operations and processes of the Babich (Pond) net shed in its general historic context.


Commercial fishing: purse seining.


Not known.


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.

Vessel Maintenance Grid -- Spiro Babich owned and fished  only wooden boats, which required 2.5 months of boat maintenance per  year. He would haul the vessels out onto a wooden grid he built in front  of the house, along the tide line. He would bring the vessel in at high  tide, and bring the bow within 15 feet of the concrete bulkhead. Sister  piles to the north would hold the boat in place. Spiro would do his own  bottom work in late May to early June during the minus tides and before  the approaching fishing season. The last year he used the grid was  1988. Remains of the grid can be seen underwater just at the tidelands  from the house.


A crew of five men generally operate each purse  seiner, though before the advent of nylon nets (post-WWII) and the power  block (1954), seining crews were usually made up of 8 to 10 men.

Associated Vessels

  • Spiro Babich -- had 19 purse seine fishing vessels in his lifetime, his first boat was Ranger and his last two were Julia B and Invincible. In 1937 and 1938, Spiro had two boats, one for sardine fishing in California and one for purse seining in the Puget Sound. He diversified to sardine fishing in the 1930s and bought a 92’ vessel.
  • Peter Babich -- inherited purse seiner Julia B When Alaska gained statehood in 1959, the length regulations for commercial purse seine boats changed from a 68’ maximum to a 58’ maximum. Thus, Peter sold the Julia B in 1960 and purchased the shorter purse seiner Pacific Maid. He retired and sold the boat in 1988, at the age of 65.
  • Paul Babich -- inherited purse seiner Invincible.
  • Randy Babich -- bought the purse seiner Paragon in 1982.

Part IV -- Sources of Information

Primary Sources

Oral history interview with Randy Babich, June 25, 2009.

Secondary Sources

  • Ancich-Stanton, Lita Dawn. Gig Harbor Net Sheds Survey. City of Gig Harbor, 2006.
  • Andrews, Mildred. “Andrews Group Report.” 2008.
  • Gallicci, Caroline. “Net Shed (PC-133-14a)” Pierce County Cultural Resource Survey, 1982.
  • Harbor History Museum photo archives, Accessed June 2009.
  • Lepow, Hannah. “Washington’s Fishing Sheds Get Boost.” National  Trust for Historic Preservation. July 8, 2008. Accessed June 2, 2009.
  • “Living on the Edge: Most Endangered Historic Properties List – 2008.” Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, 2008.

Likely Sources Not Yet Investigated

  • Interview with Joseph Pond     
  • Interview with Wes Rickard