The Tower Conoco on Route 66

Tower Conoco 1936
Circa 1940
Tower Conoco 2001

Tower Conoco
Soon after opening in 1936

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U-Drop Inn Cafe counter
Grace Bruner, owner (center), with waitresses in the U-Drop Inn Cafe. Circa 1960

Shamrock, Texas

In the 1930s it became clear that the newly established Route-66 would cut through the north end of Shamrock, TX. The owners of the prime corner lot at the new crossroads of the Del Rio Canadian Road (83) and Route-66 were offered a deal. Sell the land and have a beautiful custom designed building constructed on the site for their own use. The owners jumped at the deal and one immediately grabbed a stick and sketched the building he wanted in the dirt for the prospective buyer. The drawing was transferred to paper and the station was born.

The building was constructed as three separate businesses: 1. The Tower Conoco Station, so named for the tall tower gracing its roof. 2. The U-Drop Inn Cafe, named by a local schoolboy in a contest that awarded him $50.00 for his idea. 3. A retail store, never used as such, but soon taken over by the cafe folks for use as a ballroom and overflow dining room.

The building was beautiful in its day; neon lighting, deco details and glazed ceramic tile walls. It gradually took a beating, the biggest hit coming in the 70s when it was painted red-white-and-blue and converted to a FINA station. The building operated successfully for most of its life, finally closing completely in the mid 90s.

The Shamrock Chamber of Commerce is utilizing a federal transportation enhancement grant (TEA-21) administered by the Texas Department of Transportation to restore the building to its original grandeur. Soon the chamber will occupy the retail space as the Chamber/Tourism office. The Cafe will be restored as a stopping place for weary travelers to get a cup of coffee, a soda or just to play some dominoes and chat with local old-timers. The station is to be restored as, well, a sort of museum of itself; restored to what it looked like as an operating 1940 station so route-66ers and gas station buffs can stop and walk through. The plan also calls for a picnic area, dump station, and travel info kiosk.

If you want to lend a hand, there is plenty you can do. The grant program won't pay for what they consider artifacts like reproduction signs, reproduction gas pumps, and stuff that might have stocked the station like equipment, oil cans and the like. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor you can contact me (214)748-4561 or David Rushing in the Shamrock Chamber Office (806)256-2516. Mr. Rushing has arranged for all contributions to be tax deductible.

Jay Firsching
A r c h i T e x a s
Architecture, Planning and Historic Preservation, Inc

Tower Conoco

Images in this group
were taken by Gary Brower
in 2003. Thanks, Gary!

Click on images for a larger version


Photos courtesy of the owners as marked.
Web page by Jim Potts
Copyright © 2003

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