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Harbor History Museum

Maritime and history museum in Gig Harbor

The Shenandoah, a 1925 purse seiner, which is a type of fishing boat, sits behind the Harbor History Museum in Gig Harbor where volunteers are working to restore her. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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The Harbor History Museum sits overlooking Gig Harbor, an appropriate location for a museum focusing on the unique heritage of the peninsula. At 7,000 square feet of permanent galleries, it is a smaller museum, but it packs a bunch of history in its creative exhibits.

The permanent exhibits are professionally designed experiences, which bring history to life.  Many are hands-on or computer interactives that make the museum more interesting to children. A small theater shows a movie on the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Nov. 7, 1940, and an exhibit showcases the event as well.

On the grounds of the museum is the fully restored 1893, Midway Schoolhouse.  It is a one-room schoolhouse utilized for the Pioneer School Experience.  Every year, 1,500 students are encouraged to wear period costumes and they are given pioneer identities. A "School Marm" leads them in daily lessons utilizing the period desks and blackboards. When not in use for school programs, visitors can tour the building.

In 2000, the museum received a unique donation from Tony Janovich after 58 years as a fisherman.  He donated the Shenandoah, a 65-foot purse seiner, which is a type of fishing boat. It was built by the Skansie Ship Building Company in 1925 and is one of the last Gig Harbor-built fishing vessels remaining in the harbor. The vessel is rich with a cultural heritage that includes the men who worked on it supporting the commercial fishing industry as well as the craftsmen who built the boat.  Today, you can watch many volunteers work to restore the vessel.  There is a Facebook page for the project, "HHM Shenandoah Restoration Project". If you are interested in volunteering, there is an open sign-up every Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Harbor History Museum, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m., Sunday; closed Monday, 4121 Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor, 253.858.6722,

Located a short walk from the museum is the Devoted Kiss Café.  It is a good stop either before or after your visit to the Harbor History Museum.  It is located on N. Harborview Dr. in a section of shops and restaurants that have more of a local vibe. The café is open for breakfast, lunch as well as coffee, and it has a large local following. It is rated number one out of 90 on Trip Advisor for Gig Harbor restaurants. Come early on the weekends or prepare to wait. The menu has something for everyone with a wide variety of breakfast items including burritos, omelets and eggs benedict. More than one review mentioned the Banana Bread French Toast. I had lunch the day I went and my prime rib sandwich was perfection.

Devoted Kiss Café, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday-Sunday, 8809 N. Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor, 253.851.0055,

This is the first in a series of weekly articles throughout the summer offering a day trip that highlights a Blue Star Museum.  The National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and museums across America collaborated to offer free admission to the nation's active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

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