Shipwreck “Houses of Refuge”

Vero Beach is located on Florida’s Treasure Coast, an area well known for shipwrecks during the 18th-19th centuries.  As the region became more populous, Houses of Refuge sprang up to assist survivors. The first safe haven was founded at Bethel Creek (now Jaycee Beach) in 1876 and looked like this in 1914:

All Houses of Refuge were built alike and included a main house, cistern, and boathouse. They were placed within 15‐20 miles of each other, assuring those who washed ashore might find help within a day’s walk.

In 2012, I unknowingly photographed the remains of Bethel Creek’s safe haven for use in Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry.   Last week I noticed a newly placed historical marker by the foundation blocks:

Bethel Creek House of Refuge remains, Vero Beach

John Houston was the first keeper of Bethel Creek but 18 more quickly followed before the refuge burned in 1917. Historical documents cite boredom and poor health as reasons for the rapid turnover but perhaps less than $400.00 per year compensation had an impact, too!  Interesting to note: during this era, the most memorable shipwrecks were the USS Panama (1887) whose hold full of textiles benefitted the rescuers, and the Breconshire (1894) whose boiler off Humiston Park is now a popular diving spot.

I’ve always been fascinated by history and was thrilled to stumble across this historical marker. In closing, here’s a closeup of the marker and a different angle on the remains.

Until next time…
🙂 🙂 🙂


10 thoughts on “Shipwreck “Houses of Refuge”

  1. This is so interesting. I’d never heard of the shipwreck houses of refuge. It’s great they built them in the manner they did. I bet the houses helped save a great many lives.
    Great photos and info. Thanks for sharing this snippet from history. 🙂

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