On Saturday, there were eight wood-frame, century-old bungalows perched above Jamaica Bay on the eastern edge of Broad Channel, the small island community squeezed between the Rockaways and the Howard Beach section of Queens.
By Sunday morning, as Tropical Storm Irene churned across New York City, there were seven; the remains of the eighth — located at 12-08 Church Road — had collapsed into the bay.
On Monday afternoon, some of those remains — a dresser, freshly painted blue shingles, a refrigerator, a strip of Astroturf, a white plastic chair — floated in the water.
Next door, a slumping bungalow appeared dangerously close to suffering the same fate.
Steven Madigan, the owner of the collapsed building, was at his home in Valley Stream, N.Y., when he saw the wreckage Sunday morning on a television news report; he immediately raced to Queens, but the Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge, which connects Howard Beach and Broad Channel, was closed to traffic. So he parked his car and walked.
When Mr. Madigan arrived, he found the crumbled bungalow, which has belonged to his family since the mid-1960s. Ever since he was a boy he spent most summers there, said Mr. Madigan, who is now 48; over the past few years he built a new float, replaced support beams and poles and repainted it his daughter’s favorite color: blue.
“I was shocked,” Mr. Madigan recalled in an interview Tuesday, adding that it had survived every other storm. “I knew we were going to get damage, but I never thought it would collapse.”
A man who neighbors say owns the rarely inhabited bungalow next to Mr. Madigan’s appeared to be surveying the damage Monday afternoon. He declined to speak to a reporter.
Like all the bungalows on this wooden boardwalk, which is a city street called Church Road, the two damaged homes sat atop wooden poles sunk into the surface below. No one was home when the storm struck, and a neighbor, Tom Brauner, said all the residents in the Church Road bungalows evacuated the area prior to the storm.
It was an emotional homecoming for some who returned Monday.
Before moving into their own bungalow on Church Road in 1975, Mr. Brauner and his wife, Ginger, spent many a summer day at Mr. Madigan’s bungalow. Ms. Brauner, who is Mr. Madigan’s aunt, said she still imagined the bungalow as it was years ago, when her parents owned it: Ms. Brauner’s children and their friends would be splashing in the water and her parents would be in their typical summer repose, with her father leaning against the wood railing and her mother sitting comfortably in a woven lawn chair.
Ms. Brauner, 70, said she was devastated when she heard the news.
“My heart broke,” she tearfully said. “There were such happy times there.”
Also troubling, said Dan Mundy, founder of the Broad Channel Historical Society, is the history destroyed on Church Road.
Maps of Broad Channel from the early 1900s show that the boardwalk bungalows had already been built, he said. “When you think back 100 years ago, this is what it looked like,” Mr. Mundy said.
The bungalows “lend an ambiance to the community. We don’t only want McMansions around here; these have a nautical old-time taste that people like.”
That rustic quality has earned the bungalows some wider attention. Last spring, segments of the HBO show “Boardwalk Empire” were filmed next to the Brauners’ home.
“It’s very difficult to find 1920s exterior locations that are untouched,” said Amanda Foley, a location manager with the show.
Neighbors who did not evacuate the area described a startling scene Sunday morning.
Drusilla Young, who had a perfect vantage from the backyard of her home on Cross Bay Boulevard, checked often during the storm to see if her cousin’s bungalow, also on Church Road, had been damaged.
At 8:00 a.m., everything looked fine.
As the storm surge intensified, the hurricane seemed to shift direction, said her husband, Robert Young.
“Everything — the wind, the rain, the surge, everything was coming this way,” said Mr. Young, 50.
At about 9:00 a.m., shortly after Mr. Young heard a neighbor’s backyard fence crack under an uprooted tree, Ms. Young went to her backyard to check again.
“It was crazy,” Ms. Young said. “I looked out and the blue house was gone.”
Mr. Madigan waited until Monday to begin retrieving what he could from the water, and he said he would soon begin removing the rest of the wreckage. He did not have insurance on the property, though he said he did not plan on letting his family’s legacy on Church Road disappear.
“If I have to rebuild piece by piece, that’s what I’ll do,” he said