This station operated as Life Saving Station #5 from 1876 to 1915 with the U. S. Life Saving Service (LSS) which merged with the U. S. Revenue Cutter Service on January 28, 1915 to form the U. S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard operated it as Coast Guard Biscayne Bay Station (Station 209) from 1915 to 1926 (1930 according to the USCG Historical page) when it was destroyed by the Hurricane of 1926 (1930 according to the USCG Historical page). The Life Saving Service (LSS) had numerous Houses of Refuge like this built along the coasts of Florida to aid mariners in distress. They provided temporary shelter, food and directions to the nearest settlement. The LSS also operated manned Lifeboat Stations along the coasts of Florida and the rest of the USA.
At the time the station was destroyed, the Coast Guard owned all the property from the ocean to Biscayne Bay. The station was never rebuilt by the Coast Guard and I presume that they operated from leased property or their Air Station at Dinner Key. In 1939 the threat of global conflict was increasing along with the expansion of Miami Beach and Dade County and a deal was reached with the federal government to return the property to public domain and build the Coast Guard a new base on Causeway Island. Causeway Island was built off of County Causeway (now MacArthur Causeway) with dredged fill from the deepening of Government Cut and in 1941 the Coast Guard moved to the island and conveyed their original property to the City of Miami for a public park. The deal also included a mandate that nothing commercial could ever be built on the site of the former Coast Guard property. That site today is Miami Beach's North Shore Open Space Park.
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The below information is from the Coast Guard's historical page on this station at http://uscg.mil/history/stations/BISCAYNE.pdf :
Biscayne Bay House of Refuge, Florida, USLSS Station #5, Seventh District, Coast Guard Station #209
Location: 6 miles north of Norris Cut; 25-54' 10"N x 80-08' 00"W (incorrect because this would place it in the water off of the northeast coast of Sandspur Island just west of Haulover Park)
Date of Conveyance: 1877
Station Built: Unknown
Fate: Destroyed by the Hurricane of 1930
Remarks: The Biscayne Bay House of Refuge was designated as Station 5, District 7, of the Life Saving Service. According to the 1879 "Annual Report of the Life Saving Service" these houses of refuge along the east coast of Florida "contemplate no other life saving operations than affording succor to shipwrecked persons who may be cast ashore, and who, in the absence of such means of relief, would be liable to perish from hunger and thirst in that desolate region. Crews of surfmen
are not needed here, but the keepers and members of their families are required to go along the beach, in both directions, in search of castaways immediately after a storm."
The House of Refuge site was exchanged in 1941, by authority of Congress, for a site on Causeway Island in Miami Harbor for the use of the Coast Guard. The old site was acquired by the City of Miami for a public park.
U. S. Life Saving Service Keepers:
William J. Smith was appointed keeper on 7 OCT 1876 and left in 1877.
Edward Barnott was appointed keeper on 3 AUG 1877 and resigned on 25 NOV 1882.
Hannibal D. Pierce was appointed keeper on 2 JAN 1883 and resigned on 1 DEC 1884.
John Thomas Peacock was appointed keeper on 12 FEB 1885 and he was dismissed on 9 JUL 1890.
William H. Fulford was appointed keeper on 12 JUL 1890 and resigned on 21 APR 1902.
Clayton J. Gates was appointed keeper on 17 MAY 1902 and resigned on 29 OCT 1902.
William Rea was appointed keeper on 29 OCT 1902 and transferred to Station Gilbert's Bar on 2 JAN 1903.
Axel H. Johansen was appointed keeper on 2 JAN 1903 and transferred to Station Sullivan's Island on 31 MAY 1905.
Vincent O. Caste was appointed keeper on 8 JUN 1905 and resigned on 20 SEP 1906.
Orlando A. Quarterman was appointed keeper on 12 SEP 1906 and was still serving in 1915.
Station History File, CG Historian’s Office
Dennis L. Noble & Michael S. Raynes. “Register of the Stations and Keepers of the U.S. Life-Saving Service.” Unpublished manuscript, compiled circa 1977, CG Historian’s Office collection.
Ralph Shanks, Wick York & Lisa Woo Shanks. The U.S. Life-Saving Service: Heroes, Rescues and Architecture of the Early Coast Guard. Petaluma, CA: Costaño Books, 1996.
U.S. Treasury Department: Coast Guard. Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers and Cadets and Ships and Stations of the United States Coast Guard, July 1, 1941. Washington, DC: USGPO, 1941.
U. S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association: http://www.uslife-savingservice.org/
U. S. Coast Guard: http://uscg.mil/history/stations/BISCAYNE.pdf