The Harbor History Museum

Nestled on the Gig Harbor waterfront where Donkey Creek meets the bay, the Harbor History Museum is celebrating its 11th year of operation. Yet the Museum’s campus has a much deeper history, first as a village site of the sxw babš, or Swift Water People, a band of the Puyallup Tribe, and later the site of Austin’s log mill and original site of the Peninsula Light Company. The Museum campus includes the 1893 Midway Schoolhouse and 65-foot fishing boat, Shenandoah. Step through the Museum’s front doors, surrounded by massive logs reminiscent of the trees that were once milled here, and a whole world of culture and tradition welcomes you.

The Museum’s 7,000 square-foot permanent gallery takes you on a journey from the twisted remnants of “Galloping Gertie” (the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge) to the immigrant stories of boat builders, fishermen, farmers, and ferry operators. Look closely and find the first winners of Gig Harbor’s fabled Round Rock Contest and hear the clamor of the crowd as C.E. Shaw’s famous racing roosters take to the track. These roosters were so well known they were invited to Madison Square Garden in New York in 1936.

Fans of local boat building will delight in the Willits canoe, the giant wheel from the ferry Defiance, and a purse seiner’s power block—the 1950s invention that changed commercial fishing forever. Loved by many are the Norwegian and Croatian costumes on display from the days of Scandia Gaard, a 1970s local attraction where Nordic heritage was celebrated through music, dance, and folklore.

Visitors may step inside the one-room schoolhouse, the last of its kind in the Gig Harbor area. Restored and set in 1915, the schoolhouse is home to the popular Pioneer School Experience field trip program.

The Shenandoah is 65 feet of wonder. Recently named an American Treasure by the National Park Service, she is being preserved for future generations as the centerpiece of the Museum’s new Maritime Gallery, due to open in 2025. Visitors can see her restoration in action.

Harbor History Museum
4121 Harborview Dr, Gig Harbor
235.858.6722
harborhistorymuseum.org

BY STEPHANIE LILE