The Hutchinson Island Adventure: The House of Refuge

Where is the House of Refuge?

The House of Refuge is just North of Bathtub Beach.  If you are unsure, you can always google the address:

301 SE MacArthur Blvd.
Stuart, FL 34996

The House of Refuge, providing safe harbor for shipwrecked sailors since 1876.

The Adventure Continues…

The House of Refuge is, by far, my favorite place to photograph.  It also has a very interesting history.  According to www.houseofrefugefl.org, “The House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar is the only remaining House of Refuge. Built as one of ten along the east coast of Florida, it is the oldest structure in Martin County and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”  Click on the hyperlink above to discover more information on this historical site.


Even with the technology we have today, being shipwrecked is still one of the scariest things that could happen to you.  We hear about it all the time in the news.  One of the most well-known stories of this happening since I have moved here a little more than a year ago was with two young boys from Tequestra.  It was a very sad story without the happy ending that we always hope for.  To read an article about this story in the PalmBeachPost.com, written by Lulu Ramadan, just click here.  Imagine the sheer hopelessness a sailor would have felt in 1876.  This was a time before sailors had technology such as GPS, Satellite imagery, and aircraft searching over hundreds of square miles in a single day.  Imagine what it must have been like for a seafarer at the time when the House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar was first built…

Imagine this…

You were asleep when it happened and were awakened by a loud crash accompanied by the cries of your fellow shipmates.  Chaos ensued.  Some of the mariners kept their cool and did everything they could in a futile attempt to save the ship… others were stricken with panic, unsure of what to do.  You tried everything you could to aid in saving the ship but knew, deep down, that it was a lost cause.  The beloved vessel was taking on far too much water and the damage was simply too much to repair out in the open sea.  It was time to abandon ship and the skipper acknowledged it before the crew could muster up the courage to voice their own dire thoughts.  With a grim face, and a tear welling up in his eye, he issued his last order.  With a commanding voice, the captain shouted, “Abandon ship”.  After diving into the dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the last thing you saw of your home at sea was the silhouette of the Captain, standing at the helm, going down with his ship.

The waves were crashing all around you.  You looked all around as far as the human eye could see and there was no sign of any of your shipmates.  The ship had already sunk but you were able to stay above water thanks to the empty barrel that good fortune, possibly even a gift from God, brought your way.  The night was dark and the stars were all you had to light your way.  Thankfully, the combination of a clear night sky along with your experience on the high seas kept you from being completely disoriented.  As a sailor, celestial navigation was common knowledge.  Because of this, you knew that you were drifting to the West; drifting towards the coast of Florida.

Hours after the ship had sunk, you knew that a new day was about to begin.  Two very important signs caught your attention, filling your heart with hope.  The chances of surviving a shipwreck at sea were slim to none but you just knew that you would make it to land once more.

The first sign you observed was the birds.  Seagulls and pelicans were circling in the distance, hunting for their morning meal.  While these birds are associated with the ocean, it is a known fact that dry land is never too far away.

The second sign came shortly after.  While the sun had begun to rise in the East, confirming that you were drifting to the West, something very important caught your eye.  A light in the distance seemed to be calling for you. This light was not natural, it was made by man.  Following this light would surely lead you to the House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar…

When I photograph locations at historic places, like the House of Refuge, I can’t help letting my imagination run wild.  This scene was aptly named for what it was; a House of Refuge for sailors lost at sea.  One can only imagine what it must have been like in 1876 when it was the only light of civilization to be found for miles upon miles.  The chances of survival would have been slim, but at least there was a chance.  If you haven’t visited the House of Refuge, I highly recommend doing so.  Besides the historical significance, it is also one of the most beautiful locations on the Treasure coast.

I was very happy with my outing to the House of Refuge and am very pleased with the moments that I was able to capture.  While today’s journey has come to an end, please continue to follow me on my Hutchinson Island Adventure and let’s see where it will take us next!

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