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Texas lottery winner invests in unusual historical motel

Sep 24, 2007, 11:56 am

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After the Big WinAfter the Big Win: Texas lottery winner invests in unusual historical motelRating:

A bit of American history — quirky and curious, but history nonetheless — huddles next to old U.S. 59, past the tractor dealers and the rice mills, just before a green sign that proclaims Wharton's population of 9,237.

It's easy to miss. But it is there, just around the bend: a row of 10 freshly painted, sand-colored tepees.

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."

The Woodses bought the 10-acre property for $60,000 and spent the next two years and $1.6 million sweeping away the cobwebs and debris, remodeling, painting and fixing the neon sign.

"This wasn't about making money. It's having something no one else has," said Woods, 42, whose grandmother was Comanche. "This is a piece of Texas history."

Barbara Woods and her sister decorated, adorning each of the tepees with American Indian artifacts purchased at powwows and covering beds with handmade quilts.

Modern conveniences were added: barbecue grills outside each room, air-conditioning units jutting from the exterior walls and high speed Internet and satellite TV in each tepee. The Tee Pee Motel reopened for business in October 2006.

Soon couples who had spent their honeymoons at the Tee Pee Motel were paying the $52.50 a night to celebrate their golden anniversaries there. Adults who had pined to sleep inside the tepees as children came back to fulfill that long-ago yearning.

Usually, Woods said, once a family stops to get a motel brochure, they're hooked.

"We see a lot of families come out here. The kids love it," Woods said. "They are running around, saying 'I'm staying at the Tee Pee Motel!'"

A $1.6 million renovation has restored the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, Texas, to its 1940s and ’50s kitsch.

The Tee Pee Motel is at 4098 North U.S. 59 in Wharton, Texas, about 50 miles southwest of Houston. Nightly rates for two: $52.50, additional guests $5. Pets welcome; $25 deposit. 979-282-8474.

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7 comments. Last comment 13 years ago by HiYoSilver.
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rteague's avatar - Lottery-062.jpg
North Carolina
United States
Member #54606
August 24, 2007
1181 Posts
Posted: September 24, 2007, 1:59 pm - IP Logged

now thats cool...and to just drop 60k on a whim,then 1.6 mill to fix it up,all because you CAN !!!!  wtg Barb

    Jake's avatar - animal bird.jpg

    United States
    Member #2217
    September 1, 2003
    1068 Posts
    Posted: September 24, 2007, 2:25 pm - IP Logged

      Anyone who can see the value of things past and makes an effort to preserve to enlighten the future is a winner in my book. 

      JackpotWanna's avatar - squiz

      United States
      Member #4121
      March 23, 2004
      817 Posts
      Posted: September 24, 2007, 6:03 pm - IP Logged

      Fun investment idea. Wow and only 60 grand!

        dphillips's avatar - littleuns
        Albuquerque, New Mexico
        United States
        Member #5128
        June 18, 2004
        377 Posts
        Posted: September 24, 2007, 7:50 pm - IP Logged

        What a novel idea!  As Oprah always says, "follow your passion."

        See Ya!-- Bye, bye!  When you win, may you glow as brightly as theSun Smiley

          awwcrap's avatar - moon
          United States
          Member #37767
          April 19, 2006
          90 Posts
          Posted: September 24, 2007, 8:21 pm - IP Logged

          cool teepee's---we got them in ky,,near cavecity

            jarasan's avatar - new patrick.gif
            United States
            Member #44102
            July 30, 2006
            6172 Posts
            Posted: September 24, 2007, 11:28 pm - IP Logged

            I think this was a stop in a History channel show about driving through this great nation.

            US Flag

              United States
              Member #20228
              August 14, 2005
              61 Posts
              Posted: September 25, 2007, 7:56 am - IP Logged

              "This wasn't about making money. It's having something no one else has," said Woods, 42, whose grandmother was Comanche. "This is a piece of Texas history."


              At least they are seeing it for what it is and not trying to claim it's an investment that will make money. As long as they can afford it, I say go for it and follow your dreams. I wouldn't mind doing the same thing.