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. jessicaber

    What a beautiful home. That is abolutely fabulous. That shows what being smart can do for you.

    July 26, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Cue up that frank sinatra song "High Hopes", and always tell your kids about The Ant and the Grasshopper fable.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • wholeworldoutthere

      if smart means building a house in hurricane alley, then sure.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Oh you shrewd dudes...

      Hurricane alley, tornado alley, earthquake alley, blizzard alley, Nor'easter alley...take your pick, wholeworld...

      July 27, 2011 at 4:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Pamela Jordan

    I bought a Christmas ornament for the Adams' tree that year but wasn't sure how to get it to them, if they would be there, etc. I still have it packed away with my holiday treasures. Nothing fancy, just a shiny gold "HOPE" on a golden string. I'm glad to see that even though the ornament never made it to their coastline festivites that hope did indeed make it!

    July 26, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. L.M. Kirk

    to all of you building and rebuilding ...it's not IF but WHEN a CAT 5 hits...there will be nothing left of your pilings and I am tired of my insurance hiking every time there is a damaging storm. At some point the whole peninsula will just be gone and we wont have to worry about it anymore. There is no justification for my insurance premium to go up because of your lifestyle.

    July 26, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nimrod

      Amen Brother!!

      July 27, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Not a Nimrod

      Rather than knock the location of the buildings, lobby to improve the building codes.

      If everyone was afraid to build anywhere we could have tornados, hurricanes, flash floods, snow melt floods, volcanoes, tsunamis, lightning, mudslides, meteor strikes, or earthquakes, where do you really think people would live? Or do you only look down your nose at hurricane victims?

      July 27, 2011 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Not a Nimrod

      For that matter, just don't buy insurance if you're worried about the premium. Own your home outright, and you won't be forced to carry any insurance.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Katran Miller

      It's ironic for you to be posting that on an article about a house that DID survive a major hurricane, because the owners took precautions, paid for their insurance, and built a house that could survive a surge. If everyone did as they did - researching the risks, and building for them - premiums would go down, not up. Have YOU quake-proofed, tornado-proofed, or hurricane-proofed your house as they did, after sufficiently researching the threats in your area?

      July 27, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. Willowspring

    My son-in-law was there in the aftermath, working to restore electricity to the area and took many photos of the devastation. What a sad sight it was. I'm glad to know the area is recovering and that the new homes being built should withstand the inevitable storms. Many power companies were there; my son-in-law was with Georgia Power.

    July 26, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marianne

      All of us here on our beloved Bolivar Peninsula were blessed that your son-in-law and so many others came to our aid. There ARE good hearts left in this world. Not all wish us harm because of where we live. Disasters happen everywhere. I've never heard a word about others telling folks they can't rebuild on the Florida or Mississippi coast.

      Many, many thanks to the first responders and traveling electricians. If there is ever a disaster in your backyard, you can guarantee us proud Texans will be the first to pitch in and lend a helping hand.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. Whatthe...

    What idiots are building there again? There should be absolutely no insurance or Federal assistance to these people. It is a complete and total waste of money to fight nature in such a blatant manner. Yes, I'm sure it's beautiful, but they will come crying after the next big hurricane.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • TexasLogic

      So with your logic, anyone who lives anywhere that is setting themself up to "blatently fight nature" are idiots and essentially shouldn't live there.

      How then do you feel about New Orleans? What about a whole city built below sea level? Should the whole town be condemned? What about hurricane-prone south Florida? What about Earth-quake prone California or tornado-prone Kansas? Where do you draw the line?

      I say you can live wherever you want but I'm with you in that I don't think those peole should expect insurance rates to be cheap or reasonable or even available. I also don't want to hear people mouthing off on national television that the president is racist because their home which was built in an area below sea level happens to get flooded after a hurricane.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Lori

      You have some nerve Whatthe.... How dare you call the people there idiots for rebuilding. We've been hit by several in the last couple of decades and most beach cabins were fine. Ike was truly unique in it's power and size!

      July 27, 2011 at 4:45 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff

    Ridiculous. "The foolish man built his house upon the sand . . ."

    July 27, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. fearlessdude

    Doing the same thing and expecting a different result. What is the word I am looking for? Stupid?

    July 27, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Katran Miller

      You do understand that this was the miracle house that survived the hurricane, because it was built for it, while every house around it was washed away down to the foundations?

      July 27, 2011 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Yes, moron, I'm sure he understands that. Which is pretty much the point, half-wit. Any house built near there stands about a 99.9% chance of being destroyed again.

      July 27, 2011 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
    • CaEd

      The word you are looking for is INSANE.

      Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
      Albert Einstein (attributed)

      July 27, 2011 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
  8. justathought

    @ JEFF: If the hosue was biult on sand; why is it still standing?

    July 27, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Uh, if you think there's anything else there to build it on, you are dumber than a sack of hammers.

      July 27, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. Mark C

    Yeah, great idea - lets build some more houses on the coast where they're just going to get destroyed again.

    July 27, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Bruce

      So Mark C... Where do you live? Your house could easily be destroyed regardless of where you live... and probably would re-build in the same location just as these people did!!

      So back at you...

      half-wit... moron... dumber than a sack of hammers...

      July 27, 2011 at 4:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Proud to Live on the Guld

      Hey, isn't that what y'all decided to do to New Orleans?

      July 27, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. tuffyturf

    I live on the coast of Southern California..but, we have no hurricanes, the weather has not exceeded 85 degrees so far this year and it will not go below 35 degrees in the worst case scenario... BUT do not come here, there are earthquakes every other day, and then the mudslides come along with the non-stop rain ..coupled with the gang violence and murders and watch out for those fires too... Do not even dare visit here it is soooooooooooooooo dangerous...

    July 27, 2011 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  11. Suzy

    i lived in Texas on the coast for 32 years, and I saw one hurricane. In the 6 years I have ben in Oklahoma, I have seen countless tornadoes, school closed for snow, terrible drought this summer, and more grass fires than I car to remember. Any place you live has perils, and to condemn people that live on the coast is just plain silly. I would never choose to live in New York or LA, and the cost of incurance there is through the roof. To each his own. The little wood frame house my grandprents lived in went through hurrican Carla, Hurricane Alicia, Hurricane Ike and many other storms. It is all in following the proper building for the place in which you live.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Marianne

      @ Suzy ... two thumbs up!

      July 27, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. PARROT


    July 27, 2011 at 5:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. banasy

    That's one beautiful house.
    Well done!
    Good luck, Adams', and the rest of Gilchrist.

    July 27, 2011 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. mardi gras


    July 27, 2011 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  15. ellis from uranus

    i like turtles

    July 27, 2011 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
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