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. Josh

    "Last house" and "only structure that remains standing", but if I look down the street/road in that 2008 picture, I see at least two more homes/structures that appear to be still standing. No?

    July 27, 2011 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Pat

      Take your common sense else where!

      July 27, 2011 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
    • WellThatMakesSense

      1) Those structures are not on the coast, they are on the opposite side of the road.
      2) Who say's those are homes? Those could be businesses just as the couple has a restaurant across the street from the 'Last House Standing'

      July 27, 2011 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
    • me

      Do you really think the road protected them?

      July 27, 2011 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Fat Bobby Joe

      Yeah, being on the opposite side of the road saved them!

      Idiot.

      July 27, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Sum Guy

      looks like it may be a commercial structure down the street?

      July 27, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Idiot Sweepstakes

      Hey Fat Bobby, you won!!

      July 27, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      They are talking about on the water side of the road.

      July 27, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      on the "gulf" side of the island! The others I see are farther inland.. and no the "road" didn't protect the others, the distance from the water did.

      July 27, 2011 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. F0st3rs

    Insurance? who is paying for this?

    July 27, 2011 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
    • me

      We will!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      July 27, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. JackT

    What damage took one year to repair??? The article missed the number one hot button question? The house looked like it didn't even lose it's roof. So, what would take that long to repair? It takes only 6 months maximum to build a NEW house from scratch.

    July 27, 2011 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      maybe they didn't have the cash on hand to do it all at once, and the insurance payments came in chucks?

      July 27, 2011 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelley1

      Insurance.....

      July 27, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
    • ofCanada

      I once got 6 inches of water in my lower floor from a flood that affected 1,800 homes. Those few inches of water meant that entire floor had to be ripped out as far as the outer walls and rebuilt. It took five months. When there are a lot of homes damaged everything moves slower. Contractors, insurance inspectors, suppliers, plumbers, electricians (especially electricians) Emergency Services inspectors, all have to spread themselves over thousands of claims. Home owners have to wait over and over. It takes time. You could not go into such an area with such taxed resources and build a new home in 6 months.

      July 27, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • ST

      I live right by Gilchrist and I lived on Galveston Island during Ike and my home flooded during Ike. Use your brain a little when you think of how the house could have been damaged but not destroyed. What most likely happened to this house is the same thing that happened to lots of homes on the coast, flooding. Many houses were not damaged to the naked eye but for example your electrical box was underwater which helped fry electric throughout the house which then needs replaced or the water came up through the bottom of the house and you had to replace all the floor boards and flooring in the house along with any drywall the water touched. Getting permits and finding someone legit to repair your place does not take overnight when there are over 100,000 people who need the same services as you do.

      July 27, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. michelle

    i thought the houses in the other picture were rebuilt, is that right Josh?

    July 27, 2011 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  5. michelle

    well they said the house was on stilts before but now it looks like it's on the ground, maybe that's the repairs theyre talking about

    July 27, 2011 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Marianne

      The home is raised on pilings according to the local building code, 18 feet above sea level, I believe. Any structure below must be equipped with "break away" walls in case of a storm surge. Only storage and garage space is allowed below your home. The bottom floor area is not covered by your insurance premiums. I was unable to rebuild on my land so I'm not up on the newer regulations since Hurricane Ike.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. Bob

    Just shows man can engineer and build structures to withstand the elements if we spend the money.
    This written from my "built by the cheapest bidder" house that could not withstand two minutes of the beating this house took.

    July 27, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
    • timothyc

      Very true, but there's an element of luck as well. If enough debris had become snapped in the stilt supports the house could have been dragged off its foundations. Clearly the house was strong enough to withstand the exact storm that hit it, but how much money would be required to have made it strong enough to withstand a storm 20% or 50% fiercer than the one it weathered? Eventually something of that strength will hit, and the rest of us will pay the price in collectively higher insurance bills.

      July 27, 2011 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. Byrd

    Pretty eerie looking. Kinda like the Star Trek TNG episode of the planet with only one house and two people remaining.

    July 27, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Fat Bobby Joe

      Yeah, life imitating Star Trek...idiot.

      July 27, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Picard

      Don't mention Star Trek or idiots like Fat Joe will call you an idiot.

      July 27, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. cmello

    I seems like living in the sea to me... Good idea not to build houses their again.

    July 27, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  9. eldono

    And... are they just waiting for the next "big one"? It must be on the back of their minds. If I was the insurance company, I would say " Its all yours, baby. We aren't going to cover you."

    July 27, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. Capt Slappy

    I would bet that it would take a year to get back to livable for several reasons – First, since a hurricane hit the entire area, supplies and builder resources were likely very constrained. In the same vein, inspectors and structural engineers were also probably in short supply. I would think the folks who review plans and approve building permits were also a bit swamped, both professionally at work and personally at home. Lastly, if you look, it appears that a deck was added to the left as you look at the house – The stilts are still there, but the perspective of the picture is different. Changes to original design of the house would require review and inspections, and I wouldn't be surprised if local ordinaces changed that would need zoning variances approved in the wake of the distater.

    July 27, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. Fat Bobby Joe

    I'm sorry, but if every house was destroyed by a repeatable natural disaster, why on Earth would you want to rebuild in the same place? We're not talking about lightning here. I guess it's Texas, where everything is bigger, including the stupidity.

    July 27, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Idiot Fighter

      Don't work your brain too hard. Just call people idiots. It's what you're good at. Leave the meaningful comments to other people.

      July 27, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
    • LexJeff

      ....or New Orleans, where the only reason there is land to build the homes is due to the levee's....and those will never fail, so who really needs flood insurance insurance when your house is below sea level? The true embodiment of stupidity.

      July 27, 2011 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • ST

      Really peopel in Texas are stupid....name me one place on earth that is comepltely free from natuarl disasters causse I'm sure you live there...lets see there's fires, earthqauakes, storms that produce torandos flooding, and the list goes on...

      July 27, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • DallasTXDave

      That's right. Because Texas is the ONLY place where people build and re-build homes on a coast.

      Idiot!

      July 27, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tim

    Their house was the only one constructed with Super Glue.

    July 27, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. diver

    When I was growing up my family used to go on vacation to Montauk, NY often. Back then I thought how nice it would be to have a place by the ocean. When I did grow up I realized all to quickly that a place like this more often than not becomes consumed by the ocean. I'm not sure why these people are so proud of their last house standing. I wouldn't want to live there. Exactly what is the appeal of living in what appears to be a no man's land? And eventually there will be yet another storm.

    July 27, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  14. waves

    I think we should figure out what the religion is of the person who owns he house and all convert to that religion, because the fact that house survived is obviously proof that they are part of the RIGHT religion!!

    July 27, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jim Bob

    You know that for a little over $300 a year you can get flood insurance that is offered by the US government. If you build in a hurricane prone area, they'll pay to completely rebuild your home... actuall, you and I, the taxpayers, pay to rebuild their home. They can rebuild over and over in the same spot after hurricanes and you and I pay everytime. Talk about a scam.

    July 27, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
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