Houses of refuge were unique to the Florida coast and were built between 1879 and 1886.
There were ten along the east coast of Florida. The only one to survive is the Gilbert's Bar House of refuge. It is the oldest surviving building in Martin County, Florida.
In rough weather when ships were blown off course or hit the rocks the survivors reached the beaches with no way to return to civilization from the barrier island so houses of refuge were built. Survivors could find food and shelter there and wait for a boat to the mainland.
The Gilbert's House of Refuge was built on the St.Lucie Rocks and was House of Refuge #2.
Each house of refuge was taken care of by a keeper who lived there with his family and all assisted in the search for survivors after a storm.
The Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge was abandoned in 1945 and left to fall into ruin. Concerned citizens wanted to preserve this historical building and grounds. In the early '50s a group started preservation work.The work was finished and in 1956 this historical building and grounds were dedicated as a museum. In 1974 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum offers a tour of the living quarters and survivors quarters. You also tour the lookout tower and the beach.
The gift shop offers maps, books, jewelry, and other museum related objects.
I try to visit the museum once or twice a year.
Children enjoy this museum and it is a history lesson on Florida coastal living long ago.