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. Richard J.

    Jim Bob; that $300 for flood insurance is it you happen to live in the middle of Wyoming or someplace like that. I live on the Gulf Coast, New Orleans burbs, my house has NEVER flooded through 5 hurricanes. The biggest damage to my house from Katrina was one roof shingle at a corner was torn off and a 10 foot section fascia was blown off, both repaired by me within a week. I've never had an insurance claim. My yearly flood insurance, from the federal government is $1835.00, my hazard insurance is $2325.00 and my property tax is $1003.00. All because I'm located in an area that might flood once every 100 years.

    The government will only rebuild your house twice, the third time they will pay for the house and take the property. The property will be turning into a green space. Get your facts correct.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Awesome

      Thanks for those facts. I often wondered why tax money went to rebuild houses for people who chose to live on a coast. Three strikes is better than a never ending cycle. Although, I would still like to see not even once. I don't know of your particular situation, but when I see multi-million dollar homes being rebuilt by my tax dollars when I can't even afford a home in this economy, it irks me. I'd rather give my tax dollars to feed hungry people than pat the rich on the back for their choice.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • ColdWar153

      Awesome – and when they build these multi-million dollar homes, where exactly do you think the money goes? It goes to all the workers that help make it happen, and it gives the local economy a small boost. In the end, it does benefit hungry people that would otherwise be out of the job.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jed

    The authorities are getting this backward. Either they ban building near the shore or they set tough building codes that are supposed to make houses hurricane-proof (but the houses get knocked down anyway). What they need to do is to have building codes that requires houses to be of the flimsiest cheapest construction – and using biodegradable materials. Start with the assumption that the houses will be destroyed in the next Big One, and just try to minimize the financial loss and the environmental impact of all those houses being pulled out to sea. This will let seashore towns revert to what they should be – places where regular people can relax and live a simple lifestyle by the sea, not places for the overly-rich to build still more mansions and show off their wealth in the shops and drinking establishments that will inevitably spring up to accommodate them.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. Feenigal

    Nice to visit, but wouldn't want to live there..near bodies of water.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. bozodotcom

    cool comeback. this shows the human spirit and tenacity.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  5. Seamus McDermott

    Huh-yuk. Let's go ahead and rebuild on that flat, low-lying tidal are where it will NEVER flood again. Lightning never strikes twice, right, Mikey? Huh-yuk, huh-yuk, huh-yuk. Oh, I know, let's raise Old Glory on a big flagpole to show everyone what the American Spirit is all about. Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Huh-yuk.

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

    It might be a good idea for these survivors to say who the designer/house builder was. Obviously, somebody knows how to build a house near the ocean. Might as well give the designer/builder a pat on the back for doing such a good job.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      Nikki, wish I could give the builder a pat on the back, but the builder was fired...then we hired another builder to finish the project...will not mention any names, but will say we won the lawsuit against the first builder...he deserves no credit..good thing my husband was there to see every nail and bolt go into the house, had he not then our home would not still be standing there....

      July 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. lovelyn

    cooooooooool!!!!!!!, isn't it?

    July 27, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. Filipe Vieira

    Can anyone say book of Eli?

    July 27, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. ted

    Ike was more of a water event than a wind event. The houses which made it were built to height standards which most houses in the area were not. In a storm with more wind and the same amount of water, this house would not be there.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. Donovan

    Had a home over in the Tidelands Sub, right down from there closer to crystal beach. we thought it was well built, and would likely have damage but be OK. NOT. we could not even find the slab. all that survived was a single palm tree.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Pam Adams

      Donovan, I'm so sorry you lost everything...I went through Survivors Guilt for so long, and at times it still hits me all over again..this is one of those times...have you rebuilt??? I hope so....

      July 27, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. trish

    Hey, will you guys visit HelpFaye.ORG a friend of mine is fighting for her life.... Thanks

    July 27, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  12. James

    I would rather live in a place where you see a hurricane coming for 8 days before it hits that a place where an F5 tornato springs up and if your lucky you get enough warning to make it to your cellar.... Assuming you have one.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. bobcat2u

    Kind of reminds me of Argo city after the planet Krypton exploded. That one section of the planet developed a bubble over it and they were able to survive floating through space for many years. Of course they had to spread sheets of lead on the ground to protect against the kryptonite poisoning.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    I lived on this penisula/island and trust me this was not a place where people built million dollar homes. There of course were some nice ones out of the 3000 homes but most were just humble little weekend fishing cottages and some small 2 – 3 bedroom beach house . The buy back was a good deal for many, but believe me you won't see many show off mansion here. Most house are not over 2200 square feet. The cost to live here and have a house insured is steep. my 1500 foot house built to the highest standards cost me over almost $6,300.00 per year. Thank God I had it. I'll never build on the peninsula again Good Bless Crystal Beach and the Bolivar Pennisula. once was enough for me. My folks rebuilt and moved back they love the Bolivar. There house was 1300 square feet sure not a mansion.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • latenitelady99

      Well said Mike. We live on a tidally-influenced creek and got hit hard during TS Allison (2001) but declined a buyout when offered because we love the property (around 1 1/2 acre) so much. Again hit hard (mostly wind) by Ike (2008). Our property looked like a war zone. After more than seven different slams by mother nature, we have definitely had it. I don't sleep a wink when I see a storm in the Gulf or hear raindrops hitting the skylight. We are in hopes of getting elevated via some county assistance. We do not intend to remain if our house cannot be raised. We will then go on a "buyout" and go to higher, drier ground. Even though the stress is unbearable, I will miss the beautiful waterfront lot but I certainly look forward to enjoying a good downpour without worrying about it disrupting my entire life. God Bless all those who are trying to recover from those dreadful storms.

      July 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jessicaber

    Pam Adams: I am a LDS and I believe that those of you going through this are experiencing apocalyptic weather. If you can live through it, good for you. I am in Vermont. We do not have twisters, hurricanes or poisenous bugs or lizards. I have been watching this with awe, amazement and terror.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
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