Everyone knows Miami’s South Beach has some incredible art deco buildings in America, and that’s no more apparent than when they fire up the neons at night, but one of the most beautiful examples of the art deco style sits along a forgotten stretch of Route 66 in the little town of Shamrock, Texas. A once bustling Conoco station and cafe, the Tower Conoco & U-Drop Inn still lights up the night with its stunning neon lights.
We had no trouble finding the Tower Conoco & U-Drop Inn as we cruised through Shamrock at 2am considering the place’s glow can be seen for quite a distance, and aside from two police officers chatting in the parking lot, the town was completely asleep. It was the perfect opportunity to snap some nighttime shots of the iconic location.
You may recognize Tower Station from the movie Cars. Like many locations in the animated movie based on real-life Route 66 icons, Ramone’s Body Shop is heavily inspired by Tower Station & U-Drop Inn.
Built in 1936 along a stretch of Route 66 going through Shamrock, Texas, Tower Station & U-Drop Inn was designed by architect J.C. Berry to resemble a nail stuck in the Texas dirt. The gas station and cafe would become an enduring example of fine Route 66 architecture for roughly 60 years before finally closing in the 1990s.
After its closing, the First National Bank of Shamrock purchased the building and donated it to the City of Shamrock, who set to restoring the building through a $1.7 million federal grant. Today you can stop in at a gift shop and small museum.
When first opened in the 30s, the newspapers hailed the Tower Station, and the U-Drop Inn Cafe was considered one of the places to eat on Route 66. In fact, it was the only place to eat for roughly 100 miles, so the cafe enjoyed a steady stream of visitors and the building even housed a Greyhound station in the late 50s.
Over time the building changed hands, saw its cafe renamed multiple times, and was even repainted red, white, and blue for a period of time, but today it resembles the original 1936 construction as much as possible.
Restoration experts struggled to recreate the neon, only having daytime photos as references, but we think you’ll agree they created one heck of a neon display…
Plans are in the works to expand on the gift shop & museum to eventually offer fountain drinks, coffee, and floats.
If you’re planning a Route 66 road trip, we offer a little advice regarding Texas… Little of the original Route 66 is left in Texas, but certain icons such as the Tower Conoco & U-Drop Inn, Cadillac Ranch, and The Big Texan Steak Ranch are well-worth detouring from the highway.
If you’re headed west, time your trip so you can make it to Tucumcari, NM before nightfall for iconic Route 66 motel lodging like Motel Safari & the Blue Swallow Motel.