An end-table-size chunk of natural granite sits in the ground level sitting area of the beachfront house on 32nd Avenue in Longport.
It's the only piece that wasn't destroyed when Hurricane Sandy blew through the glass doors and windows facing the beach, dumping four feet of sand in the house.
"The sand was up to here," said David Schwartz of Surroundings Furniture and Design in Northfield, as he demonstrated with his hand where the sand had stopped. He and his wife, Christine Borchardt, redesigned and furnished the main level for the home's owners after the storm and were on site Monday to provide information during the Jewish Family Service of Atlantic and Cape May Counties House Tour.
While many questions were about the decor, Schwartz also fielded flooding inquiries, confirming that yes, the entire first level had been gutted down to the studs and joists.
House tours are a tradition at the Jersey Shore, and there are three this week, starting with the JFS Monday, then continuing with the Long Beach Island Foundation for the Arts and Sciences tour on Wednesday and the Cape Regional Medical Center Foundation and Auxiliary tour in Avalon and Stone Harbor on Saturday.
All three tours are popular for providing an inside view of lovely shore homes. But this year there is also special interest in how they either survived or recovered from Hurricane Sandy.
"Everybody asked if we were going to have (the tour)," said Carin Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the LBI tour. "But the homes on our tour were not damaged extensively. A lot of it was just landscaping."
She said because of the interest they have asked participating homeowners, whose identities remain confidential, to consider displaying photos of their homes and grounds right after the storm.
The house tours are a crucial source of revenue for the groups that sponsor them. Both the JFS and LBI tours estimate about 800 people attend, raising as much as $50,000 for programs and services.
"This is our biggest fundraiser," Fitzpatrick said.
Beth Joseph-Arentz, director of communications and donor relations for JFS, said they had also received a lot of inquiries about storm damage. She said some people were interested to see how homeowners rebuilt, but not all of the homes on their tour were damaged.
A home on Fulton Avenue was already in the process of being raised and renovated before the storm, and another new home on Princeton Avenue was under construction during Sandy. Architect Todd Miller, president of QMA Design+Build in Ventnor, said because there was a lot of warning about the storm they had time to either remove, cover or tie down everything at the house.
"We had to batten down the hatches and tie down the porta-potties," he said. Another home they were working on had its entire second floor wrapped in Tyvek for protection.
Many of the hundreds of visitors are regulars, coming every year. Some are looking for remodeling ideas, and others just like to see the homes.
Karen Borski, of Margate, and Connie Pappas, of Longport, loved the interior of a home on Dorset Avenue and were working their way through the Princeton Avenue house as they made their way down to Longport.
"It makes you happy just to walk through," Borski said.
Linwood native Sherrie Strausfogel, visiting from Hawaii, said she liked that the houses were different styles.
"It's interesting to go from one to another," she said.
Miller noted that the Princeton house was built to the required flood zone height at the time, and water from Sandy only came up to the sidewalk on the block. He handled questions about the kitchen and flooring, and shared an interesting design tip about how the house was designed to add a future elevator as the owners transition to living full-time at the shore and might not be able to manage three floors of stairs in the future. The space for the elevator is now a series of aligned walk-in closets.
"We've been doing this design for about 20 years," he said. "And we just installed our first actual elevator."
Contact Diane D'Amico:
The Long Beach Island Foundation for the Arts and Sciences 47th annual Seashore Open House Tour will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, featuring seven homes on the island. Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 the day of the event. Phone 609 494-1241.
The ninth annual Home & Health Show and Designer House Tour by the Cape Regional Medical Center Foundation and Auxiliary will be held Aug. 10. The Home& Health Show at the Avalon Elementary School is free and open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Designer House Tour runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call CRMC at 609 463-4040, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
Cavalier Cottage, the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities Designer Show House, is open daily through Oct. 31. Admission is $15. Self-guided tours are offered from 1 to 4 p.m. daily. Designer Show House Dinner Packages are $50 and include dinner and a guided tour. Lunch packages in the Carriage House Cafe are $35. Call 609-884-5404 ext. 153 or online at capemaymac.org for more information.