Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge

House of Refuge on Hutchinson Island

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Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge – Photo by Rosa Sophia

Next time you’re on Hutchinson Island, try to imagine what it might’ve looked like in 1876 when Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge was constructed and referred to as “House of Refuge No. 2.” There were once a total of ten houses of refuge, and the one on Hutchinson Island is the last one in existence.

These were safe havens for sailors who were lost due to shipwrecks– places where travelers could stop in South Florida, which was largely empty at the time.

Why is it called Gilbert’s Bar? This is something I asked myself when I first heard about the house of refuge on Hutchinson Island. According to the story, there was a natural inlet called Gilbert’s Bar which was close to modern-day St. Lucie Inlet. The inlet acquired the name of Gilbert’s Bar, supposedly, because Don Pedro Gilbert (a pirate) would hide in the inlet from his pursuers. The location of the house of refuge was marked on maps in relation to Gilbert’s Bar and St. Lucie Rocks, and eventually the house was given the name over time.

To go even further back, evidence shows that natives were on the site 4,000 years ago.

Learn more about Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge by visiting the site, and by reading the book Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge: Home of History by Sandra Henderson Thurlow and Deanna Wintercorn Thurlow.

And next time you’re at the beach, take yourself back in time and try to visualize what it might’ve looked like, all those years ago.

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Rosa Sophia (left) and friend Christie at Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge in 2016. The rock outcroppings are Anastasia rock, and can be found underneath much of the state.

 

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