TwHP Lessons

Roadside Attractions

[Cover photo] Shell Service Station
(Photo by Martin Coble)

[Cover photo] Paul Bunyan and Babe
(Photo by Martin Ince)


ave you ever bought your milk while inside a milk bottle? Paid for your gas inside a teapot or a sea shell? Slept in a wigwam? Climbed on a dinosaur? Have you compared your foot size with that of Paul Bunyan? These and many more such activities attracted hometowners and tourists alike as millions of Americans took to the road when the automobile revolutionized American life. Some set off on ambitious cross-country trips; others on jaunts to neighboring states to visit newly opened national parks; and some simply crossed town for Sunday dinner or to pick up milk from the store.

In this lesson, students will examine five examples of roadside architecture built in the 1920s and 1930s and designed to catch the eye of passing motorists—three represented literalism in advertising, one was intended as a political joke, and one was designed to lure the traveler into spending the night in an "exotic" setting. The students also will examine two examples of colossal roadside sculptures that exemplify the concept of boosterism.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. United States

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. Representational Architecture
 2. Wigwam Village No. 2
 3. The Roadside Colossus

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Teapot Dome Service Station
 2. Shell Service Station
 3. The Big Duck
 4. Benewah Milk Bottle
 5. Wigwam Village No. 2
 6. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
 7. Dinosaur Park
 8. Dinosaur Park

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Designing a Building
 2. Form, Fantasy, and Design
 3. The Auto and the Local Community

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This lesson is based on the Benewah Milk Bottle, Big Duck, Dinosaur Park, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, Teapot Dome Service Station, Shell Service Station, and Wigwam Village No. 2, seven of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.




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