Texas Tourist Camp
In 1927, E.F. Boydston bought a feed lot in Decatur, Texas and turned it into the Texas Tourist Camp. As grand as that sounds, in the beginning, it was merely a gas station that offered campsites. Next came a restaurant, which started as the Texas Lunchroom, but soon became known as the Texas Cafe.
Petrified Wood & Infamous Guests
In the 1930’s, Mr. Boydston added several cabins with attached garages, thereby creating a rustic motel for tourists passing through town on the new highway.
In 1935, he spruced things up by covering all the buildings in petrified wood. It’s rumored that shortly before their bloody demise, the infamous gangster duo, Bonnie and Clyde stayed a night or two here.
Local Highway Kept Business Thriving
Business boomed at the gas station, cabins and restaurant until the 1960’s, when the highway was diverted to the west side of town. With fewer people driving by, business withered away. The cafe went under in 1964, the cabins scraped by until 1970, and the gas station finally closed its doors in 1989.
It looked as though the petrified wood complex was going to go the way of the dinosaur, or at least fall to rack and ruin like so many places I see in north Texas.(Check out my photos in the post, Glen Rose, Texas: Dinosaurs Galore & Much, Much More. That little town is full of petrified wood buildings, but many are falling apart.)
A Petrified Wood Renaissance
Luckily, one of E.F. Boydston’s grandkids, Nancy Rosendahl, and her husband, Jim, stepped in to restore the petrified wood complex in the 1990’s.
These days, Jim uses the old gas station as an office, and the restaurant, now known as the Whistle Stop Cafe (904 S Business 81/287 Decatur, Texas), is a local hot spot. On the day my husband and I had lunch there with a friend, the food was good and the joint was jumping.
If you are ever in the Decatur area – which is about an hour’s drive from Dallas, Texas – I highly recommend checking out the historic Texas Tourist Camp and grabbing a bite to eat at the Whistle Stop Cafe.