The Biscayne House of Refuge was a safe haven for shipwrecked crews and castaways lost at sea. The once-nice refuge house, built along with four others, all identical, was becoming rundown, until Captain William Fulford took over and changed the outlook of the refuge. Fulford wrote simply this in his log book, when he first visited the refuge house,Jan. 28,1883. Is the house in good repair? No. Is the house clean? No. Contractor repairing house. This shows how Fulword looked down on the home and and the owners. Progressive for his time, Fulford made the refuge livable again and upgraded the home. Now that the house is gone, Brown's Hotel sits closest to where they can assume the refuge was built.
House of Refuge was built in 1876 by the United States Life-Saving Service, to
help shipwrecked sailors. This was a
project that cost Florida over $15,000 after building four more identical houses along the coastline. The project was intended to
help sailors and their crew get back to their families after disasters at sea. The houses would offer food and shelter, and
help the sailors and castaways get back on their feet. Each house was identical, but the keeper of
the house made each different, for better or worse. A bronze memorial plaque now sits in place of the original Biscayne house.
was built identical to each other and cost around $3,000 a piece to
construct. Each house had one story
including a loft. There were three main
rooms downstairs, one being the kitchen.
The kitchen was narrow and had a brick chimney. All the windows had screens and shutters, but
none had glass installed. This was
because strong storms hitting the glass would shatter it. Along the outside of the house was an
eight-foot-wide veranda that covered three sides of the house. The Biscayne site also had a boat house and a
large wooden tank. This wooden tank
would collect rain water for the house to use, so they had to be careful at
times not to use too much water. Also,
the back yard was jungle-like, but able to be farmed, because they had fresh
fruits and vegetables to feed their guests.
The people at the Biscayne house
were the only people in Miami at the time.
The original keeper of the refuge in 1883 was Hannibel Pierce, along
with help from his son Charles. These
two were in charge of hospitality. This site was also home to a coconut
plantation, that was overseen by Henry Lum.
The coconut plantation was unsuccessful in providing profit for the
island; instead, Lum ended up feeding the rabbit population with coconut
seeds. Pierce was the keeper of the
house until 1891 when Captain William Fulford was appointed the new
keeper. The refuge had become rundown
because Pierce wasn’t keeping the house maintained and it was falling apart. Once Captain William Fulford took over, the
refuge slowly started to become new again.
Captain William Fulford and his
wife took care of the house and the people inside the house. Before becoming the keeper, Fulford stayed at
the refuge and kept detailed logs of the house.
His first log talks about how awful the house was and how it should
change. Fulford continued his logs after
he became the keeper, and kept details of his improvements and daily
activities. Fulford was very progressive
for his time because he would allow people to buy rooms when there were no
sailors in them (sailors would stay for free). He turned the refuge into a part-time hostel when not booked up
already. Fulford was able to do this
because he had such a high-quality reputation for the house that tourists wanted
to stay at such a clean, reputable place.
They would feed guests fresh food from the gardens and farms around the
island, which only added to the appeal.