A piece of the painted rug, above, is all that remains of the trompe l’oeil cozy cottage that Megan Heath Gilhool created in the bus shelter in October, 2011, below. (Click to enlarge)


Before Hurricane Sandy, Sea Bright’s downtown bus shelter, elaborately painted to resemble a typical beach-front bungalow, was one of the little things that gave the shore community an indelible sense of character and charm.

Post-Sandy, however, all that remains of the decorated stop is a bit of faux flooring on a slab of broken concrete, with the rest of the structure washed away into oblivion.

Fortunately for Sea Bright straphangers, that’s about to change.

Sea Bright Rising, a charity group that arose in the storm’s aftermath to aid the ailing community, is planning to rebuild the Ocean Avenue shelter and restore it to visual glory with help from artist Megan Heath Gilhool.

Gilhool at work on the bus shelter in October, 2011. (Click to enlarge)

“We’re waiting for the go-ahead from the state,” because the stop is on a state highway, said Chris Wood, owner of Woody’s Ocean Grille and a prime force behind Sea Bright Rising. “But we’re committed to bringing it back as close as we can to the original version,” Wood told redbankgreen Thursday.

“People really enjoyed the stop before – its character, the added element it gave the town. So we want to make the new one literally as close as possible,” he added. “The decorations done by Megan were very detailed, and a great reflection of the community and our residents.”

An interior trompe l’oeil mural, which Gilhool completed in late 2011, turned the ordinary shack that covered the stop’s waiting bench into what resembled a beachside home, complete with a virtual a bookshelf,  a cat – “Buster,” Gilhool called him – and a sofa.

Wood estimates that the new project shouldn’t cost more than $4,000, a number he called “a shot in the dark,” and hopes that local vendors such as Bain’s Hardware, which provided the paint free of charge for the original mural, will also help with the restoration.

According to Wood, the bus shelter restoration is part of the third prong of Sea Bright Rising’s three-prong plan, consisting of aiding residents, business owners, and now, the borough’s infrastructure. Wood also said that Sea Bright Rising is committed to replacing lifeguard stands, the borough’s marquee announcement board – originally located in front of Woody’s  – and looking into restoring the business district’s benches.

“We want to do anything we can to help beautify the town,” Wood said, “and we consider the bus stop to be an important part of it.”