Eddon Boat Building
In October, I presented one of our recently-completed projects at the Association for Preservation Technology conference in Victoria, BC.,“Heritage on the Edge: Sustaining Buildings, Landscapes and Communities.” The presentation, What Would Ed and Don Do?:The Revitalization of the Eddon Boatyard in Gig Harbor, Washington, described our ‘light’ approach to the design and construction of necessary structural and architectural upgrades, consistent with the spirit of the original boat shop.
Gig Harbor’s historic waterfront buildings are mostly vernacular, utilitarian maritime structures that have evolved and grown over decades. Functional modifications were made as-needed, resulting in collage-like buildings and a waterfront with authentic character. Here, function prevails over form, modesty is favored over grandeur, and (sometimes) necessity took precedence over building codes.
Edward Hoppen and Don Harter purchased a five-year-old boatyard in 1950 and started a successful boat-building business – The Eddon Boatyard. It was here that the first Thunderbird class sailboat was constructed, revolutionizing small boat building. The Thunderbird sailboat was Hoppen and Ben Seaborn’s response to a design request by the Plywood Association. The challenge was to construct “both a racing and cruising boat…sleep four…capable of being built by reasonable-skilled amateurs…powered by an outboard auxiliary…outperforming other sailboats in its class.”
In 2004, 62% of Gig Harbor residents voted “yes” to a $3.2 million bond to purchase the Eddon Boatyard site. The campaign was led by the grassroots group “Friends of Eddon Boatyard” which included the City’s mayor as one of its founding members. Today, the Eddon Boat Building is listed on Gig Harbor’s Register of Historic Places and continues to operate as a boat-building and educational facility. Visitors can safely observe the craft of wooden boat building and experience the atmosphere of a working boat yard similar to the one enjoyed by Ed and Don sixty years ago.