One of the many tragedies to come out of Hurricane Ike was the hammering of storm waters on the Flagship Hotel Over the Water, resulting in its closure. The hotel is situated on a pier off Seawall Boulevard and literally weathered the front line of the storm. Unlike its neighbor, the Balinese Room, the Flagship survived the storm remaining structurally intact, but it suffered quite a bit of surface damage.
Two years later, it remains an empty shell of a once-great icon looming over the water. Access to the hotel has been barricaded off. Onlookers can see into a corner suite facing inland that's been completely exposed. Of the pair of grand mermaids flanking the Flagship emblem, one has partially crumbled away with the wall.
While Galveston and Houston all too often lose historic buildings due to neglect or lack of patronage to fund restoration, the Flagship was fortunate enough to be acquired by the gulf coast's favorite entrepreneur, Tilman Fertitta, from the city of Galveston in 2004, for an estimated $500,000.
Fertitta's Landry's Restaurants Inc. initiated plans earlier this summer to begin restoration to the hotel. Crews have torn down the deteriorating ramp connecting the hotel to the Seawall and are replacing it with a new one.
Long term, Landry's is working to restore the 25th Street pier and hotel to its original 1943 design, which reportedly once held a dance hall, restaurants and concessions. The pier will be reopened as the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier Hotel and Resort, likely in mid-2011.
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While Fertitta's gratuitous displays of wealth (are those white tigers even still alive at the Downtown Aquarium restaurant?) and appropriations of our outlying coastal towns, stocking them with overpriced amusements and mediocre restaurants (Kemah Boardwalk), are verging on a monopoly of signature Tilman-transformed destinations, the Flagship, without the financial backing of Landry's, would have likely been another great casualty to the City of Galveston after Ike.