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Decatur, Texas

Petrified Wood Gas Station

National Register of Historic Places
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark

900-904 S US 81/287
Decatur, Texas

by Robin Jett

Book Hotel Here › Decatur Hotels
Decatur TX - Petrified Wood Gas Station
Decatur Petrified Wood Gas Station
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2002
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.
Decatur TX - Texas Tourist Camp Petrified Wood cabin
The cabin
Photo Courtesy Robin Jett, 2002
Decatur TX - Texas Tourist Camp Petrified Wood cabin with garage
Cabin with garage
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
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.
Texas Tourist Camp Complex historical marker
US 81/87 - 900 Block

Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
The cabins with garages
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Texas Tourist Camp Petrified Wood office
The Office
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Texas Tourist Camp Petrified Wood cabins with garages
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Texas Tourist Camp Petrified Wood
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Texas Tourist Camp Petrified Wood cabins with garages
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Texas Tourist Camp Petrified Wood  Whistle Stop Cafe
The Cafe
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Texas Tourist Camp Petrified Wood
Petrified wood
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Texas Tourist Camp Petrified Wood cabins with garages
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
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
1200 C South FM 51 Decatur, TX 76234
(940) 627-3107

© Robin Jett
May 2002
Decatur TX - Petrified Wood Gas Station
The gas station
Photo Courtesy Robin Jett, 2002
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.

Historical Marker

Texas Tourist Camp Complex

Local businessman E. F. Boydston (1888-1945) purchased this site, a former feed lot, in 1927 for $400. Recognizing a potential business opportunity in offering services to the traveling public, he built a wooden shed and gas station in 1927. Travelers were allowed to build campfires during overnight stays, and by 1931 Boydston added three wooden cabins with garages to the camp complex. The buildings later were faced with rock, and more cabins and garages were added in 1935. The original wooden gas station was covered with petrified wood in 1935 when the highway was widened and remained in operation by the Boydston family until 1988.

The Texas Lunchroom, a one-room frame building, was built in 1929. Renamed the Texas Cafe in 1935 and faced with stone to match other buildings in the complex, it was enlarged to provide second-floor living quarters. Popular with local high school and college students, as well as families and the traveling public, it was closed in the 1960s after a highway bypass built west of town diverted traffic from this area. The cafe reopened in 1993. One of the few intact examples of tourist camps built throughout Texas in the mid-20th century, this property is significant for its association with the early development of automobile tourism.

See Decatur. Texas

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