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The Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum (VBSRM) was established in 1981 as the Virginia Beach Maritime Historical Museum. It has operated as a museum through several name changes, including the Life Saving Station of Virginia and the Old Coast Guard Station. The building was constructed as a United States Life Saving Service station in 1903 and came under United States Coast Guard when it was established in 1915. VBSRM offers vital historical material of Virginia Beach and the life saving service that is not available anywhere else. It provides history about the coast and the shipwrecks that occurred off of its shores. 

The Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum located at 2401 Atlantic Ave.

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A diorama of the Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum during the 1800s while a US Life Saving Service station.

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The building the museum is housed in was built in 1903 but is the second station to sit in this location on the Virginia Beach oceanfront, with the first being built in 1878 in a post-Civil War effort to secure American maritime shipping lanes and save lives in shipwrecks. In that year, James H. Calrow of Norfolk was contracted to build seven life-saving stations on the coast of North Carolina and Virginia at $2,310 each. Originally used by the US Life Saving Service, which existed from 1878 to1915, there were no full-time workers at the station. The surfmen in the station worked seasonally, usually 4-8 months, while the remainder of the year was dedicated to fishing, crabbing, and farming. Later, when the US Coast Guard took over the building, the Coastguardsmen were to live in the station or, if married, were to live nearby on small plots of land.

The US Coast Guard decommissioned the station in 1969 and it sat abandoned for roughly a decade with an uncertain future. During this time, high-rise hotels were popping up all along the Oceanfront and land developers wished to demolish the rapidly degrading station to build a Hilton Garden hotel. However, a local grassroots movement saved the museum. The building was moved from its original location, now the 24th Street Park, and was turned 90 degrees so its boat doors now face the park rather than the ocean. After a two-year-long renovation, the museum opened its doors as the Virginia Beach Maritime Historical Museum in 1981. It would later change its name to The Old Coast Guard Museum in 1996 and the Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum in the 2000s. 

The Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum now holds the sacred task of preserving both US Coast Guard and Virginia Beach history. The informative displays in the museum include topics such as life in Virginia Beach in the 1800s, history of the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, tales of various Virginia Beach shipwrecks, history of the US Coast Guard Women's Auxiliary during WWII, and more.

VBSRM. Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum. Accessed February 8th 2022.

The Virginian-Pilot, August 4, 1878, Page 1, online archive

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