Owners of 'last house standing' part of peninsula's comeback
A 2008 photo shows the devastation that Hurricane Ike's sea surge left in Gilchrist. This elevated house survived.
July 26th, 2011
06:20 PM ET

Owners of 'last house standing' part of peninsula's comeback

Pam and Warren Adams aren't so lonely in Gilchrist, Texas, anymore.

In September 2008 they became known as the owners of the "last house standing," the only structure on Gilchrist's Gulf Coast side to have survived Hurricane Ike's massive sea surge, thanks to the stilt-like columns that lift the home 22 feet above normal sea level. (See the original iReport.) Now, the house still is the sole Gulf-side structure for several blocks, but there's been plenty of activity within shouting distance, on the narrow peninsula's other side.

New houses have been built in Gilchrist, and elsewhere on the Bolivar Peninsula, since the hurricane.

Perhaps three-dozen structures have been built or repaired on Gilchrist's East Bay side, across State Highway 87 from the couple's home, Pam Adams says. On the whole Bolivar Peninsula - a thin strip of land between mainland Texas and the Gulf where Ike reduced 5,500 homes and businesses to about 1,500 - about 3,000 homes and businesses stood with water service as of last month.

The Adamses not only stayed on the peninsula (it took them a year to repair damage to the home and make it habitable again), they doubled down. One of the new structures across the highway is their new restaurant, FantaSea BBQ & Grill, which they opened last year. Pam says it's one of about three businesses currently open in Gilchrist.

The couple returned to the home after a year of post-hurricane renovations.

"It's always been my fantasy to live on the beach, and it's been Warren's fantasy to run a barbecue restaurant, and all in all, we're both living out our fantasies out here," said Pam, 56, who helps run the restaurant on weekends when she's not working as a cost analyst in Houston.

Although the population is down, the peninsula still attracts beachgoers and fishermen, not to mention people using Highway 87 to get between Galveston and Louisiana. The restaurant, also run by 66-year-old Warren, a retired electrical designer, manages to attract plenty of people looking for barbecue, hamburgers, hot dogs and onion rings; it had 300 customers on July 23 alone, Pam said.

The couple's new restaurant sits across the street from their house.

The house may never have any immediate neighbors. Adjacent properties and more than 600 others on the peninsula were sold to the county under a buyout plan funded by FEMA, with the stipulation that no structure be built on those properties again. The arrangement frees people who didn't want to or couldn't rebuild, and reduces the number of future potential insurance claims in the flood-prone area.

But the peninsula still is seeing an average of 30 new building permits a month for new structures, and the county is investing in the area, with plans to rebuild three fire stations, elevate the highway and introduce sanitary sewer service to an area that had relied on septic tanks only, said John Simsen, Galveston County's emergency management coordinator.

Pam Adams enjoys being back at her beachside house. "Everything seems to be coming back," she said. "I'm really proud of all the strong, determined people down here."

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Filed under: Hurricanes • Texas • Weather
soundoff (198 Responses)
  1. Kris

    You can see pics of the restaurant on facebook @ FANTASEA BBQ & Grill & if you want too see pics of the house before, after & now I'm sure Pam would show you for those that think the photos are photoshopped. GREAT PEOPLE WHO HAVE COME A LONG WAY OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS!!!

    July 26, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      Thank you Kris....people don't understand..been like that for the past 3 yrs..if it's not about Katrina then it just didnt' happen..but that's ok with us here on the peninsula...we do not have our hands out...we are stronger than that..hugs!!!

      July 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ken in houma

      So true, all we hear in Lousiana is Katrina, Katrina, Katrina....especially from that certain city to the East of here. We get it, Katrina kicked some ass. Get over it, clean up, tear down those dumps that were dumps before August 29, 2005, and move on. Take a lesson from St. Tammany Parish and the Mississippi Coast. Rita came through an wiped Cameron off the map, Ike destroyed Bolivar. Do we hear the constant whine for handouts coming from Texas? Nope. Maybe its the demographic that makes the difference. Yup.

      July 26, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nate

    Checking the house out of Google Street View is interesting because the Street View images and the "Satellite" (aerial photos) are from different times. The Aerial images are clearly right after the hurricane.
    http://goo.gl/GknYO

    July 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      you are right about the aerials being right after the storm. The street map photos were taken before the storm. When you go to that intersection there is nothing there expect the house & Rest. The whole thing was whiped off the face of the earth just like the arials. It is a bit cleaner now, but still desolate

      July 27, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mako

    Don't tell me they can get insurance?

    July 26, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      Oh, yes we can get insurance...

      July 26, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • christr

      If properly built for the area and expected conditions, then I don't see why not. Insurance is about risk. And it's obvious that place is a much better risk then any of the other buildings in the area were. 🙂

      July 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ginger Snap

      The Adams' home is a testament to building according to the newest and most rigorous hurricane codes!

      July 26, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. aziz

    Our tax dollars will subsidize this insane desire to live on the beach............ We should do away with federal/state subsidies for home insurances...... Let these people pay for the dreams.......

    July 26, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      and what about the ones that live in tornado ally, mud slides.....maybe you live where there are no disasters...???? what if you were told you couldn't have insurance...???

      July 26, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marine5484

      Don't be angry that the best you can do is living in a trailer.

      July 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Stache

    Well, of course they can get insurance...they HAD insurance...and there would be a gigantic lawsuit if they dropped coverage!

    After all, it is the last house standing!

    The little house that could...

    July 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      Little house that can, and will, and we pray it stays this way...God only knows....

      July 26, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • VicVic

      tHEY KNEW THEY COULD AND THEY DID

      July 26, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Greg The Horseman

    Hey America...it's called "Yankee Knowhow". If America used the same "rebuilding" of the economy that Pam N Warren used, we wouldn't be "Drowning in debt" Semper Fi to Pam N Warren!

    July 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      Big hugs to you Greg...thank you

      July 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Stache

    Uh, aziz, they lived on the beach before...
    The tax dollars benefit everybody.....even you.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. java323

    3 fire stations will be built? Seems a little much for a desolate area.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      We are not desolate anymore...we are coming back strong...we need the medical and the emergency here on the peninsula...

      July 26, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ginger Snap

      This is not some end of the world place! Our peninsula is one of the few routes into historic Galveston Island.

      July 26, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      Gingee, those that have never been to the peninsula obviously know nothing about our precious Bolivar...therefore they do not know that this is just one end of the peninsula and only one area of it, Crystal Beach and Bolivar is at the other end and there are so many homes that survived Ike, and so many that have been rebuillt since Ike, and new businesses' going in all the time...one thing I can say for our peninsula-we are very, very strong neighbors, we stick together!!! After almost 3 years of reading comments about our home and the peninsula, and the hurtful things so many have to say, reading them now knowing they have never met all the wonderful property owners-nor have ever traveled Hwy 87 I just have to overlook the hurtful comments...No matter where you live there are disasters, I just pray that they never have to endure the pain that us Bolivarians have had to endure...Hugs to you my sweet Sister of the Salt...

      July 27, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  9. ProudParticipant

    I'm proud to say our company manages the hurricane recovery efforts on behalf of the involved state agency(ies). Way to go to everyone involved – the Grantee, Service Providers, Grant Admins, Construction personnel, Grant Administrator, and all state agencies involved in administering the FEMA funds. I have this famous picture hanging in my cube and now when people wonder aloud whatever happened to the house and surrounding area, I can tell them and show them! So happy for Ms. Adams!

    July 26, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      Thank you!!! at least some understand...doesn't matter where you live, your going to have problems...I know some that live on a side of a mountain, and I feel safer than they do....

      July 26, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. 1Heart

    My parents lost a house at Gilchrist. It was their dream and they worked really had for a long time to be able to retire with a second home. They will be breaking ground on their second Gilchrist home in the next month or so. Perhaps we will see you around Pam and Warren.

    July 26, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • 1Heart

      I meant to say they worked really "hard."

      July 26, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      Wooohooo...everytime I hear or read about a new home going up in Gilchrist it just warms my heart....I love sitting out on my deck and watching structures going up, and wonder what beautiful, tropical color it will be painted....Cant' wait to meet them, and welcome back to the neighborhood....

      July 27, 2011 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dan

    That's a nice house, wonder if the windows are made from some kind of wind resistant plexiglass, and if that in any way affects their view of the ocean? To the people complaining about insurance: it's cheaper to repair a house that's been damaged than to pay the replacement cost of the house and the now-uninhabitable land for those who were unfortunate enough to not build a smarter house to begin with. I'm willing to bet the insurance companies were asking themselves why everyone couldn't have had this foresight, It would have saved everyone a lot of money in the long run...

    July 26, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Marianne

    For those of you that believe this larger photo was altered, please search Google images for "Gilchrist Ike" to see their devastation for yourselves. This portion of the Bolivar Peninsula was an older community with homes built decades ago. The Adams' home was one of the few in Gilchrist built to current standards in the narrow strip of land between our Gulf and Galveston Bay. I personally drove through the destruction not two weeks after Hurricane Ike hit to see what was left of my home of 22 years. Yes, I completely lost my home and every single thing inside...as did my parents and so many family members other close friends. I typed HOME, because these were our homes, not simply some vacation spot to frequent a few times a year.

    Please take the time to view some of the amazing before and after pictures at the following link. My home is near the center of the third picture, completely gone after.

    http://geology.com/usgs/hurricane-ike-pictures.shtml

    It is obvious CNN did not bother to send a photographer down to shoot the true progress. Shame on them.

    Pam & Warren Adams are true American heroes in my book! Thank goodness for the "Sisters of the Salt"

    July 26, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      And thank God for neighbors liek you Marianne...Us Sisters of the Salt stick together..forever and always...hugs!!!

      July 27, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. Crystal

    Its a Texas thing...When times get tuff we pick ourselfs off of the ground and do it again!

    July 26, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. TexasProud!

    It's nice to see people not blaming the government, not waiting for a handout, and not saying "it's not fair" over and over again. These folk deserve our applause! Good luck to you!

    July 26, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Justin

    Did you build the house Pam? I have to give you credit for thinking ahead. Are the new structures being built on stilts or still risking it?

    July 26, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ginger Snap

      @ Justin, I'd say 90 % of all the pre-Ike homes on peninsula were built on stilts or pilings ... now we're just building them on higher pilings.

      July 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
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