Gig Harbor, Washington

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Gig Harbor, Washington
Gig Harbor.jpg
The Maritime City
Location of Gig Harbor, Washington
Location of Gig Harbor, Washington
Coordinates: 47°19′37″N 122°35′11″W / 47.32694°N 122.58639°W / 47.32694; -122.58639Coordinates: 47°19′37″N 122°35′11″W / 47.32694°N 122.58639°W / 47.32694; -122.58639
CountryUnited States
 • TypeStrong Mayor
 • MayorKit Kuhn[1]
 • Total6.12 sq mi (15.85 km2)
 • Land5.90 sq mi (15.29 km2)
 • Water0.22 sq mi (0.56 km2)
36 ft (11 m)
 • Total7,126
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,815.83/sq mi (701.05/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (Pacific (PST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP codes
98329, 98332, 98335
Area code(s)253
FIPS code53-26735
GNIS feature ID1512239[5]

Gig Harbor is the name of both a bay on Puget Sound and a city on its shore in Pierce County, Washington, United States. The population was 7,126 at the 2010 census.[6]

Gig Harbor is one of several cities and towns that claim to be "the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula". Due to its close access to several state and city parks, and historic waterfront that includes boutiques and fine dining, it has become a popular tourist destination. Gig Harbor is located along State Route 16, about 6 mi (10 km) from its origin at Interstate 5, over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.[7][8] A $1.2 billion project to add a second span to the bridge was completed in 2007.[9]


Boats in Gig Harbor

During a heavy storm in 1840, Captain Charles Wilkes brought the captain's gig (small boat) into the harbor for protection.[10] Later, with the publication of Wilkes 1841 map of the Oregon Territory, he named the sheltered bay Gig Harbor.

In 1867, fisherman Samuel Jerisich came to the Gig Harbor area, along with many other immigrants from Sweden, Norway, and Croatia. The town was platted in 1888 by Alfred M. Burnham.[11]

Gig Harbor was officially incorporated on July 12, 1946. Commercial fishing, boat building, and logging dominated the economy until the construction of the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940. Until then, the primary method of transportation between Gig Harbor and the economic center of nearby Tacoma was by steamship. Starting in 1836, steamships started plying the waters of Puget Sound and quickly developed into what was eventually dubbed the "Mosquito Fleet". Gig Harbor, isolated from Tacoma and Seattle by Puget Sound and the Tacoma Narrows, could not be reached by automobile or horseback except by a very long and arduous trip south around Puget Sound and Hammersly Inlet. The boom was to be short lived, as the first bridge collapsed just months after it was completed. The resource demands of World War II prevented another bridge from being built until 1950. Between the time when the first bridge collapsed and when the second bridge was completed, a state-run ferry service delivered drivers directly into downtown Gig Harbor. Remains of the ferry dock can still be seen just outside the mouth of the harbor at the southeast end of Harborview Drive. The area has been turned into a small park, where the public can see a panoramic view of the Cascade Mountains, Point Defiance, and Mount Rainier.

After the completion of the replacement bridge in 1950, Gig Harbor and the surrounding area quickly began to develop as a suburb of neighboring Tacoma.[12] First, the area had substantial residential development as families retreated from Tacoma in favor of the tree-lined neighborhoods and waterfront lots available on the Gig Harbor Peninsula. What had once been summer cabins became primary residences for people who commuted daily over the bridge to Tacoma. Medium-sized housing development sprang up across the peninsula. The 1980s and 1990s had substantial retail development near State Route 16 to serve the growing residential population, shifting the economic center of Gig Harbor out of downtown. For some time, city leaders were unsure how to handle the growth while maintaining the character of the city. Ultimately, the city decided to aggressively annex the surrounding rural areas and convert them into high-density commercial and housing districts, forever changing the rural character of the area, but assuring that little new development happens in the historic downtown area, preserving its history and charm. By the 1970s, local merchants had begun actively promoting the downtown area for its historic value, and tourism became prominent on the list of economic engines in Gig Harbor. Today, downtown Gig Harbor is a very active place for tourists with shopping, dining, and recreation on every block. The last large swath of undeveloped waterfront property at the south end of downtown was recently developed into the headquarters of the Russell Foundation, named for George Russell, founder of Russell Financial.

Today, despite a long history of boat building, very little manufacturing exists in Gig Harbor. The only remaining boatbuilder is Gig Harbor Boatworks, which builds rowing and sailing dinghies in classic style using modern materials.[13] Until recently, Tiderunner Boats maintained a manufacturing facility at the north end of the bay. The historic Skansie boatyard is now primarily a maintenance facility for yachts and pleasure craft. The Glein/Eddon/Gig Harbor boatyard was recently purchased by the city after spending many years sitting idle. The city intends to use it as a working waterfront museum.

Commercial fishing is still of great cultural, if somewhat lesser economic, importance to Gig Harbor, and many commercial fishing boats make it their home port. Most, however, do not rely on Puget Sound to gather their catch, instead finding it more profitable to venture north to Alaska to fish in the summer. Gig Harbor's fishing fleet still gathers the first weekend in June (during the Maritime Gig Festival) in the center of the bay for the annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremony. In recent years, due to the dwindling number of remaining fishing boats, pleasure craft have been allowed to participate in the ceremony, somewhat lessening its authenticity, but increasing its visibility and participation.

A new Tacoma Narrows Bridge has been built alongside the existing bridge and opened July 2007, doubling past capacity.[12]

Skansie shipyard[edit]

In 1905, the Skansie brothers were the first in the area to build a gasoline-powered fishing boat. They did so at first by refitting boats with a gasoline-powered engine. Usually the motors were quite small, between 6 and 8 horsepower; the Skansie brothers originally used a 7-horsepower engine.[14] Although these were powerboats, neither masts nor a turntable to hoist in the nets were used. This work was all done by hand. However, with the introduction of a motor, the boats were not able to go as far as Alaska. Skansie shipyards built fishing vessels from the late 1910s to the early 1950s. Vessels built by Skansie:

  • F/V Genius – being refitted by grandson of original owner
  • F/V Shenandoah – being restored as a museum piece for the Harbor History Museum
  • F/V Supreme – registered in Canada as Supreme No. 1
  • F/V Advocator – sunk in early 2000s in Bellingham
  • F/V Veteran – still has permits to fish, was donated to the Gig Harbor Boat Shop and is used to educate people about commercial fishing
  • F/V Greyling – registered with state of Alaska as F/V Taylor Maid
  • F/V Emancipator – serves as tender vessel in Friday Harbor for San Juan Island salmon seining
  • F/V Avalon – Resided in Port Townsend, later demolished by state
  • F/V Vernon – active in Puget Sound and South East Alaska Seining


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.96 square miles (15.44 km2), of which, 5.95 square miles (15.41 km2) are land and 0.01 square miles (0.03 km2) is water.[15]


Gig Harbor
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches

Gig Harbor has a marine west coast climate: Warm and dry summers, transitional springs and autumns, and cool and wet winters, with occasional snow. The annual high and low temperatures of Gig Harbor are 59.3 °F and 44.8 °F, respectively, making for an average of 52.05 °F.[16]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)10,717[4]50.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[17]
2018 Estimate[18]
Aerial view, looking northwest, of the harbor and town of Gig Harbor, with Henderson Bay in background
Entering Gig Harbor

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[3] of 2010, 7,126 people,[6] 3,291 households, and 1,937 families resided in the city. The population density was 1,197.6 inhabitants per square mile (462.4/km2). The 3,560 housing units averaged 598.3 per square mile (231.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 90.2% White, 1.2% African American, 0.6% Native American, 2.4% Asian, 0.5% Pacific Islander, 1.4% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 5.8% of the population.

Of the 3291 households, 22.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.7% were married couples living together, 9.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 41.1% were not families. About 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.69.

The median age in the city was 48.1 years; 18% of residents were under the age of 18; 7% were 18 to 24; 21% were 25 to 44; 29% were 45 to 64; and 25% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46% male and 54% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census of 2000, 6,465 people, 2,880 households, and 1,765 families resided in the city. The population density was 1,485.2 people per square mile (573.8/km2). The 3,085 housing units averaged 708.7 per square mile (273.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.2% White, 1.1% African American, 0.6% Native American, 1.5% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 0.5% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 3.0% of the population.

Of the 2,880 households, 25.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.0% were married couples]living together, 9.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.7% were not families. Around 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.75.

In the city, the population was distributed as 20.3% under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 23.5% from 25 to 44, 25.7% from 45 to 64, and 23.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females, there were 83.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $43,456, and for a family was $57,587. Males had a median income of $46,250 versus $28,487 for females. The per capita income for the city was $28,318. About 3.5% of families and 5.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.8% of those under the age of 18 and 4.1% of those ages 65 or older.


At the state level, Gig Harbor is part of the 26th Legislative District - which runs from the Tacoma Narrows in the south to Bremerton in the north. It is represented in the Washington State Legislature by Senator Emily Randall (D - Bremerton),[19] Representative Jesse Young (R - Gig Harbor) and Representative Michelle Caldier (R - Port Orchard).

At the congressional level, Gig Harbor is part of Washington's 6th Congressional District. It is represented by Congressman Derek Kilmer and Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.


The Peninsula School District is the district covering the city of Gig Harbor and the peninsula.[20] Tacoma Community College opened a satellite campus in Gig Harbor in 1992, and also operates a branch serving Washington Corrections Center for Women, also in Gig Harbor.[21][22]

High schools
Middle schools
  • Goodman Middle School
  • Kopachuck Middle School
  • Key Peninsula Middle School
  • Harbor Ridge Middle School
  • St. Nicholas Catholic School
Elementary schools
  • Artondale Elementary
  • Harbor Heights Elementary
  • Discovery Elementary
  • Pioneer Elementary
  • Purdy Elementary
  • Voyager Elementary
  • Vaughn Elementary
  • St. Nicholas Catholic School

Notable people[edit]

Media appearances[edit]


  1. ^ "City Council". City of Gig Harbor. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  2. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Washington: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2019". United States Census Bureau. May 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  6. ^ a b "U.S. Census website".
  7. ^ "City of Gig Harbor Geographic Maps".
  8. ^ "Gig Harbor". Wikivoyage.
  9. ^ WSDOT - SR 16, Tacoma Narrows Bridge Project Archived June 2, 2016, at
  10. ^ "Gig Harbor - Thumbnail History".
  11. ^ Majors, Harry M. (1975). Exploring Washington. Van Winkle Publishing Co. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-918664-00-6.
  12. ^ a b "Tacoma Narrows Bridge".
  13. ^ "Gig Harbor Boat Works".
  14. ^ "Skansie Shipbuilding Company (Gig Harbor)".
  15. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on December 20, 2012. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  16. ^ "Climate Gig Harbor - Washington".
  17. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved July 25, 2013.
  18. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Peninsula School District".
  21. ^ Webster, Kerry (September 11, 2019). "New dean at TCC Gig Harbor started her education there". The News Tribune. Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  22. ^ Gross, Ashley (December 16, 2019). "Washington experiments with giving women in prison limited access to the internet". KNKX. Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  24. ^ "Former Manchester United player Freddie Goodwin passes away - Official Manchester United Website".
  25. ^

External links[edit]