I’ve been to Long Beach Island several times since Sandy hit the coast of New Jersey. The devastation along the whole coast, on LBI is especially bad. An iconic structure, know as the “Shack”, was erased from the landscape from the storm surge.
Located off the eastbound side of the Route 72 Causeway in the marshes of Cedar Bonnet Island, the shack was possibly the second most recognizable LBI landmark after the Barnegat Lighthouse. Dating from the 1920s, The Shack was also symbolic of the history of Barnegat Bay and the clammers and baymen of years gone by. The Shack in its later years evolved into a much beloved rustic (if somewhat derelict) edifice, becoming a a favorite theme of artists as well as a local conversation piece and the subject of an often bitter custody dispute.
On my trips to the island I’ve seen a large amount of debris along the side of Route 72 east. I knew this would be where the remains of the shack could be found. Friday December 7th I met up with a journalism student from Columbia University who was doing a project on Sandy and how people were re-using materials (debris) found after the storm. She met me along the side of Rt. 72 and filmed me collecting debris and pieces of the shack were recovered. I found wall boards, flooring, joists, and cedar shingles. How do I know it was the iconic “Shack?” Well, the age of the wood was old, not your typical new age wood. Joists are cut to true dimensions, like 2×4″ not 1.75×3.75″. The cedar shakes were sometimes still attached to the old yellow (or pitch pine) wall boards. The yellow pine or pitch pine was a very common building material from back in the early 1920s in New Jersey. On some wall boards there was even pieces of old wall paper on them. After collecting a truck load of wood, the journalism student followed back to my workshop in New Gretna and filmed me creating a frame from a previous post-Sandy salvage mission and a few driftwood tree sculptures that I made with driftwood that had washed up in Barnegat Light after Sandy hit.
The main reason I went to salvage wood from here is to try and save it from being collected and sent to local landfills or from being incinerated, like I’ve heard what’s being done with a lot of the debris collected from island areas. I plan on going back to save more wood before work is done to remove it. Just because wood got wet and thrashed around in the storm surge doesn’t mean it can’t be re-used or re-purposed. I hope to memorialize the shack by creating one of a kind pieces of artwork from it.