Sticky fingers grip the smooth, clanking safety bar as my feet slowly lift from the ground. The sun glistens off the water next to us as the cool sea air tosses my hair unapologetically. Our shadows are getting smaller and my grip is getting tighter as we’re lifted high enough to see the whole pier. Thousands of happy patrons are weaving in and out of rides, games and eateries, as I spin round and round through a whirlwind of time.
Whenever I am somewhere I feel is historically significant, I try my best to appreciate what was once there. In the case of Galveston Island’s Historic Pleasure Pier however, the answer can’t quite be taken at face value. There was a Pleasure Pier here before this one, but it was destroyed over 50 years ago by Hurricane Carla.
Originally built for military personnel and their families, the park was renamed Pleasure Pier and opened to the public in 1943 following the end of WWII. Including everything from motion pictures to an aquarium, and even fishing off the end of the pier, Galveston had a hot spot for tourists and locals alike.
That was, until Hurricane Carla hit the island in 1961 and damaged Pleasure Pier to the point of no repair. In 1965, a new property opened up on the pier called The Flagship Hotel, which claimed to be the first ever hotel suspended completely over water. Despite the incredible void Pleasure Pier left behind, the new hotel shifted the tourists back in Galveston’s direction and over the years, many grew to love the Flagship as an iconic structure on the seawall.
However in 2008, the grand Flagship Hotel met the same fate as its predecessor, suffering severe damage during Hurricane Ike. Although the hotel had withstood various great storms previously, it seemed as though this was the final straw. At first, many assumed Landry’s would rebuild. It seemed logical enough to bring this postcard landmark back to life. That is, until you’re standing in front of the broken concrete driveway that once lead to the entry gates, staring up at the monstrous building, wondering where they might even begin.
In 2009, Landry’s announced they were moving in a different direction and had decided to demolish what was left of the Flagship Hotel. In its place they planned a reboot of the historic Pleasure Pier of the 40’s and 50’s with an updated swing on the attractions. Tilman Fertitta, Landry’s owner, CEO, and Galveston native, took a special interest in the project and vowed to return the pier to its former glory . In May of 2012, 51 years after the original had fallen to the wind and waves, the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier was reborn to a new generation.
Once again the pier is a place for tourists and locals alike to pass the time in addition to neighboring attractions such as Schlitterbahn, Moody Gardens, and Kemah Boardwalk. The pier boasts 16 rides, including a 100-foot tall ferris wheel and an incredibly steep roller coaster named the Iron Shark.
Since opening, Pleasure Pier has been quite successful, with thousands of patrons being drawn by the numerous rides, games and food/beverage offerings, including the first Bubba Gump to open in Texas.
“I’ve always wanted to recapture the feel of the original Pleasure Pier. Now we are making that excitement happen for new generations.” -Tilman Fertitta