Built in 1936, the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas, was kind of a big deal. With its prime location on iconic Route 66, the café with its connected Tower Station was one of the first commercial businesses along the route. The road itself was a fairly new addition to the country’s landscape, with the roadway being designated Route 66 just ten years earlier.
This Art Deco building included the Tower Conoco Station, so named for the metal tulip-topped tower attached to the building; a café, which was given the name U-Drop Inn by a local student who won a building naming contest (and five dollars); and a space that was to hold retail. At one time, the U-Drop Inn was called “the swankiest of swank eating places” and “the most up-to-date edifice of its kind on U.S. Highway 66 between Oklahoma City and Amarillo.” The café was the only the one around in a 100 mile radius, so it wasn’t just swanky, it was crowded. The space that was to be used as retail was converted to additional café seating and a ballroom the next year.
But while the implementation of national highway system in 1956 brought speed and efficiency to American travelers, it also meant a decline in patrons for businesses along Route 66, and the U-Drop Inn was no exception. When the highways came in, Shamrock was one of the towns bypassed; the formerly famous U-Drop Inn fell into disrepair and was eventually abandoned. As Shamrock Economic Development Corporation director Larry Clonts explained, “When the freeway started and got complete, the town started going down from the lack of people because they quit traveling as an adventure.”
A $1.7 million federal grant in 2003 gave the U-Drop Inn a second chance. The building, which is now owned by the city, was restored to its former glory and now includes a visitor’s center and the city’s Chamber of Commerce. Another new addition? A Tesla Supercharger charging station for electric cars. The restored building is a bit of road trip nostalgia that has reinvigorated Shamrock. Clonts noted,“For our travelers that you’re seeing come and go all the time here, which are by the thousands, it’s a piece of history.”