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  Texas : Features : Rooms with a Past : Decatur
ROOMS WITH A PAST - Texas Hotels Built Before 1950 :

The Texas Tourist Camp &
Petrified Wood Gas Station
Decatur, Texas

Text & photos by Robin Jett

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Decatur Hotels

Petrified Wood Gas Station
The gas station
Photo Courtesy Robin Jett

Decatur (Wise County) is located at the intersections of US 287 and US 380, 25 miles west of Denton, 35 miles north of Fort Worth, and 60 miles Northwest of Dallas.

Remember drive-in theaters? Car hops in roller skates taking your order while you sat in your Plymouth Valiant? When ice cream sodas cost a nickel at the pharmacy downtown and your sheriff looked like Andy Griffith? Although I personally do not remember any of this, I do know of a wonderful little place that harks back to those simple days….

The Texas Tourist Camp and Petrified Wood Gas Station stand like relics from that by-gone era on the east side of Decatur, an old Chisholm trail town which used to be the site of the Decatur Baptist College (now, it's the Dallas Baptist University). The complex consisted of a gas station, five cabins, and a café. Today, only the café serves its original purpose.

It actually began as a camp ground on the edge of town. In 1927, owner E.F. Boydston, realized that money could be made as people began travelling for leisure, so he added a gas station, and in 1929 opened the Texas Lunchroom for hungry road trippers. In the early 30's, Boydston built cabins with garages to offer more comfortable settings. To REALLY spruce things up, his brother Nolan put petrified wood (quarried from around the area) on the exteriors in 1935. The tourist court became an attraction in its own right, and remained popular throughout the 30's, 40's, and 50's for locals, travelers and college kids.

 

Texas Tourist Camp cabin
The cabin
Photo Courtesy Robin Jett

As typical North Texas history goes, Bonnie and Clyde supposedly stayed in one of the cabins for a few nights. Since the Texas Tourist Camp didn't make guests sign a register, and the couple used the back roads into Dallas constantly, the claim may not be too far fetched.

Sadly, the Texas Tourist Camp went the way of juke boxes and poodle skirts. As Interstates began bypassing whole towns, it slowly began its demise. First, the Texas Lunchroom closed in 1964… about ten years later, the cabins shut their doors for good. The gas station remained open until 1989.

In 1992, some enterprising souls bought and remodeled the Texas Lunchroom, renamed it the Texas Café, and now cook up hamburgers, chili, and apple pie. The Boydston living quarters are insurance offices, and the gas station serves as an office for the remaining family.

Nancy Rosendahl, grand-daughter of E.F. Boydston, restored the camp to its hey day look (ca. 1953) and applied for a historical marker, which was granted in 1995. Because of the architectural style (late, late, late wood) and that the building of the court coincided directly with the National Highway Act of 1924, the complex became a part of the National Historic Registry as well.

Other places to visit in Decatur: the old Decatur Baptist College (now the Wise County Heritage Museum), the beautiful courthouse, and the Waggoner mansion (not open to the public, but worth a glance because it's down right creepy).

Texas Tourist Camp and Texas Café
100 S. US Highway 21/Business 287
Decatur, TX 76234

Wise County Heritage Museum
1602 S. Trinity
Decatur, TX 76234 (940) 627-5586

Decatur Chamber of Commerce
www.decaturtx.com
1200 C South FM 51 Decatur, TX 76234
(940) 627-3107

May 2002
© Robin Jett

See Decatur. Texas
More Rooms with a Past

Decatur Hotels
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Sources
Deed Records of Wise County
Interview with Nancy Rosendahl
Application for Historical Marker by Nancy Rosendahl and Rosalie Gregg
Texas Historical Commission on-line Atlas

Author - Robin Jett
Writer, Educator and History Buff
A native born, currently unemployed social studies teacher living in Lewisville but trying desperately to return to a place without traffic jams.

 

 
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