Kevin O’Connor is just like you. Well, maybe not in the job department. He’s been the host of This Old House since 2003.
But when it comes to vacations, he’s a typical Jersey guy.
“My point of contact now in New Jersey is primarily LBI. I spent a week there every summer,” he said. Plus, he gets Thanksgiving thrown in too since his parents now have a house on the island (he grew up in Maplewood, N.J.)
I talked to O’Connor Tuesday as he drove to N.J., but he wasn’t going on vacation. He was headed to the last week of filming for This Old House‘s “Jersey Shore Rebuilds” project, which begins airing on Oct. 3 on PBS.
It’s a break-out from the show’s usual format. “We always do an out of town project and follow renovations. With Sandy, given the scale of the devastation, we decided to profile three different homeowners and three different homes,” he said.
Their stories are all different:
- A home in Manasquan (below) was completely destroyed—This Old House follows the creation of a new home from prefabricated modular construction.
- Another home in Point Pleasant was a 1980s house that was partially damaged during the storm, and the show chronicles how it was raised 13 feet.
- And an historic home in Bay Head that was flooded by 5 feet of water was renovated.
Rita Gurry’s Manasquan house before it was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy (above) and after its This Old House rebuild (below).
This Old House does not gift these renovations. This isn’t Extreme Makeover, and the work and materials are paid for by homeowners. This Old House guides their work and then follows it to show the practical side of renovations—in this case, after a storm.
As the show demonstrates, the Jersey Shore is not a playground for the rich and famous. “Two of the three homes are primary residences,” O’Connor says. One home is owned by a single woman, and the Point Pleasant house is owned by a couple who have done most of the work themselves because they couldn’t afford to hire a general contractor, according to O’Connor.
The stories from the storm were so compelling that This Old House also created a companion web series called “Life After Sandy: Storm Stories from the Jersey Shore,” which will run on PBS.org, that covers the stories of Jersey Shore homeowners—some who are participating in the TV show and some not. “On the show, the house is the star,” he said. “What’s not getting on TV is very compelling— the human stories of people down here, what they’re doing and what they’ve been through.”
Three of the shorts are now online. Watch them below: