Sandra Caldrello says she was watching from her home across the street as a well-known structure at Osprey Beach fell victim to Hurricane Sandy.
“It must have happened around 9 or 10, because the water was coming up over the wall differently,” she said.
The next morning, the beach’s pavilion and bathhouse was almost entirely gone. A set of pilings leading out into Long Island Sound was stripped of its deck. All that was left was a tenacious remnant of individual bathhouses leading out onto a collapsed portion of deck.
“We intend to rebuild, absolutely,” said Caldrello. “My members have volunteered to rebuild if necessary…It’s a part of people’s lives.”
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Caldrello manages the Osprey Beach Club, which included the pavilion and bathhouses. She said her family owns the beach, but that members of the club buy seasonal memberships to use the beach and structure.
“Some of these people have been coming here 50 to 60 years,” she said.
Caldrello said the building dated back nearly 75 years to the time of the Hurricane of 1938. She said the seawall along Pequot Ave. was built as protection following this devastating storm, and the Osprey Beach pavilion and bathhouse replaced the structures destroyed in this tempest. In addition to the decks, members got an individual bathhouse as a place to change their clothes.
Bill Flynn, a Pequot Ave. resident, said much of the debris from the bathhouses wound up in his front yard. He said many residents have pleasant memories of Osprey Beach and that some club members were looking through the debris fields along the road to retrieve pieces of the building. Flynn said one resident took home the door to their bathhouse unit.
“It’s gone through quite a few storms,” he said. “Usually it’s the winter storms. I guess the tide and everything else proved too much this time.”
Flynn said he thought the location was more vulnerable to the surge during the storm, noting how structures farther up and down the shore from Osprey Beach took some damage but survived. A bathhouse next to the Osprey Beach Club, which Caldrello said is owned by an organization known as 959 Corp, was also destroyed. Another nearby bathhouse at Elrin Beach was also wiped out.
Osprey Beach has suffered a number of incidents of structural damage over the years. The site was home to a large seaside resort that opened in 1881 with a dancing pavilion, bathhouses, and bowling alleys. It was well-known for its clambakes, and included a dock for a steamer that stopped there on excursions between Norwich and Block Island and Watch Hill in Rhode Island.
The resort closed in 1884, the same year a January storm inflicted major damage to it. The New York Times reported that a cyclone demolished the steamer dock, bathhouses, and part of the dining hall. Another hurricane in 1914 caused severe damage at the beach, while the storm surge during the Hurricane of 1938 swept away a pier and bathhouses at the site.
The new pavilion and bathhouses have suffered more minor damages since that time. Hurricane Gloria damaged the roof in 1985, and Hurricane Irene destroyed a staircase from the deck to the beach last year.
Caldrello said the club had just finished rebuilding a replacement staircase before Hurricane Sandy. The building had closed for the season at the time of the storm.