Sandra Thurlow and Timothy Dring
Ten houses of refuge, unique to Florida’s east coast, were constructed by the US Life-Saving Service between 1876 and 1886.
When ships traveling along the almost uninhabited coast were grounded or wrecked on reefs, survivors often made it to land but had no way to reach civilization. House of refuge keepers and their families provided food and shelter to victims of shipwrecks. The keepers’ lives were monotonous but punctuated with the excitement of an occasional shipwreck. The US Life-Saving Service provided the framework on which the east coast of Florida developed.
With the establishment of the US Coast Guard in 1915, the Life-Saving Service houses of refuge became Coast Guard stations.