As in the Tee Pee Motel, a throwback to the 1940s and ’50s, when taking a drive was still in style and roadside businesses used gimmicky architecture—like a gas station that looked like an oil derrick—to lure customers. The Tee Pee Motel is one of a handful of tepee-themed lodges left.
For years, however, Wharton’s Tee Pee Motel was little more than gutted shells engulfed by a tangle of overgrown weeds and a broken sign that once beckoned guests with neon lights and an image of an American Indian chief.
Then, a diesel mechanic named Bryon Woods won $49 million in the Texas lottery in July 2003.
Four months later Woods and his wife, Barbara, were driving by the ruins of the Tee Pee Motel, about 50 miles southwest of Houston, when Barbara Woods piped up.
“I want to stay there,” she said. “Let’s buy it and renovate it.”