Shamrock, Texas, is worth exploring if you're ever near the intersection of
I-40 and U.S. 83
Shamrock, Texas, is worth exploring if you're ever near the intersection of I-40 and U.S. 83, 14 miles west of the Oklahoma border and 100 miles east of Amarillo.
Route 66 made Shamrock famous, and oil and cattle made it last. Nearly half of Wheeler County's population of about 5,000 resides in Shamrock. The folks that live here on the edge of the rippling prairies of the High Plains have a good appreciation of their history.
The town's name was suggested by an Irish sheepherder, who tried to start a post office in 1890, but his dugout home, and therefore the town, burned down. Shamrock finally sprouted in 1902 when the railroad reached the site, only it was first called Wheeler. That name was soon taken by the county seat located 16 miles north.
This year Shamrock celebrates its centennial anniversary. Like many towns in arid West Texas, a dependable water source was a big concern from the beginning. In 1915, the Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. constructed a 75,000-gallon, 176-foot water tower near the center of town. Visible for 10 miles in any direction, it is still one of the tallest water towers in Texas.
With two railroads serving the town, Shamrock enjoyed steady growth until the oil boom in 1926. A few years later, petroleum caused another boom to the town's population. This time it was gasoline and the completion of Route 66. At the same time U.S. 83, a major north-south highway, was improved from Perryton at the top of the Panhandle to Laredo on the Rio Grande.
Local entrepreneurs took advantage of the intersection of the two major highways by building the Tower Conoco Station and U-Drop Inn and Tower Cafe. For more than 50 years the art deco service station was a welcome sight for travelers. It has been renovated by the city into a gift shop and visitors' center. The building's design is such an iconic symbol of American happy motoring that its likeness was used in the Disney cartoon movie Cars.
The stages of Shamrock's development move like a timeline from south to north. The old part of town is around the water tower. The industrial buildings of the Fifties and Sixties are along old Route 66, also known as 12th Street, or Bill Mack Boulevard after the deejay and songwriter who grew up in Shamrock. Along I-40, on the northern edge of town, is the nuevo Quicky Mart district.
One last thing that Shamrock is famous for is having a chunk of the original Blarney Stone. A town official brought it back from a visit to Ireland in 1959. Encased in a concrete monument in Elmore Park, visitors have worn the stone fragment smooth from all the kissing and rubbing. Don't miss your chance for a little luck of the Irish in Shamrock.
1,038th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.