The BoatShop at Eddon Boatyard perpetuates skills and traditions of a working waterfront
By Abigail Thorpe
In 2003, plans were introduced to demolish the Eddon Boatyard, which had fallen into disrepair, and replace it with a gated community. What could have been the end of an historic Gig Harbor landmark became a new beginning, as four community members rallied behind the boatyard and presented an alternative plan to preserve the site and its history.
“Four supporters grew to dozens and ultimately hundreds,” recalls BoatShop President Guy Hoppen. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation issued a grant to help with community outreach, and ultimately through the support of elected officials and the community, a bond was issued to save Eddon Boatyard in November of 2004.
Today, Eddon Boatyard serves as a working waterfront that harkens back to its early beginnings and the boating and fishing industry that is foundational to Gig Harbor. The Gig Harbor BoatShop, which moved into the restored Eddon Boatyard in 2010, is central to the preservation of this history, delivering hands-on boat building and skills-based programming to community members and visitors.
“Boats being built and repaired at the Eddon Boatyard secures a use at the historic site that is over a century old,” explains Hoppen. “The nonprofit Gig Harbor BoatShop providing the community at large and our guests opportunities to experience that craft and heritage through events and programming broadens the cultural impact of that history and assures that skills and knowledge is passed down.”
The BoatShop’s mission to preserve Gig Harbor’s historic waterfront and the craft of wooden boat building has resulted in a thriving educational hub that perpetuates the working waterfront skills, uses and traditions that have marked this area for generations.
While the BoatShop closed during the pandemic to help protect the health of the community, they hope to resume classes and programs as 2021 unfolds, and will populate the website with program updates as they move through the spring and summer.
“We look forward to resuming our successful menu of public programs as the public health crisis is brought under control,” explains Hoppen. “Among the most exciting new offerings is ‘Mini Boat School,’ where six participants will help build a carvel-planked motor launch in a 12-week, three-days per week class. We hope to begin in late summer, early fall.” The BoatShop also plans to continue expanding its programming on the Veteran to include waterfront excursions and portions of a commercial fishing crew training program.
Whether just gazing at the historic structure while walking by, accessing the waterfront to paddleboard, or participating in skills programs or events inside the boatyard, the community’s connection to the legacy and history of our working waterfront is secured. That’s important.”
The BoatShop survives on the generosity of those who donate or attend programs, foundation grants, auction proceeds and the help of generous volunteers, along with funding from the City of Gig Harbor to maintain and keep the Eddon Brick House open. Individuals and families are invited to get involved by volunteering, donating funds or items, and participating in events. To learn more, visit GigHarborBoatShop.org.