LBJ's Texas Whitehouse, Fredericksburg
The runway at the Texas White House could not handle Air Force One, so LBJ would fly to Austin and switch to a smaller jet, the Lockheed JetStar, to fly to his home. The moniker of JetStar was unappealing, so he nicknamed the plane, Air Force One-Half. It sits to one side of the ranch house in a covered but open air hangar. Kept clean and shiny, it makes for some neat pictures for those who like planes. I made ample use of the zoom lens to get wide angles and telephotos. You can walk around the entire plane and there are few visual distractions that will be in the pictures.
LBJ made 74 trips here as President and spent one-fourth of his time here while in office. It is interesting to tour, but photographing is not permitted inside the building. It's OK outside, which is good because you will stand in line waiting to be escorted through the building. Don't just stand there...take out the camera and take pictures. It's actually a good angle from which to photograph the house. I used a zoom lens, no tripod, and focused on getting details of the building.
LBJ walked four miles to this one room schoolhouse where, beginning at age four, he began his education that finished with a degree from San Marcos. His life story in a nutshell: hardscrabble boy rises to the top and retires to his roots. Photographers: the angles here are fascinating. Also, we were fortunate to be here when some flowers remained. And don't overlook the live oaks. The inside of the building was not accessible, but you can photograph it through the door windows.
LBJ was raised as a simple farm boy on the banks of the Pedernales River. His childhood home was rebuilt by the President and used as a guest house. It is part of the historic park and can be visited and photographed. Most visitors just pass it by, but, as an amateur photographer, I found it quite fetching. I stuck with my zoom lens and walked around the grounds, snapping a few pictures here and there.
Most folks visit the Texas White House to walk through the rooms of the Ranch House, but photographers need to know in advance that taking pictures is not allowed inside. Don't miss the small but interesting car museum on the grounds. It has vehicles driven by LBJ on the ranch, and they can all be photographed. Bring your zoom lens and not your tripod...you'll just be in the way of other visitors. It is indoors, but natural light comes in through windows. As a sidebar, the Ford was used by LBJ when hunting in the Hill Country. The Amphicar was for playing pranks on unsuspecting guests. He would drive down a boat ramp, shouting that the brakes had failed, and roar with laughter at his panicked guests (such as uptight Cabinet members) as the car floated down the Pedernales.
Whether or not you choose to follow the audio tour, if you drive around on the ranch, eventually you get to the Texas White House. Park on the taxiway next to the presidential hangar, where you can pay two dollars to tour the house. Definitely worth it! I was one of three people on the tour, and found it fascinating. Just imagining all the people who sat under the Council Oak to discuss some of the most important legislation of the LBJ era...and seeing the lovely formal dining room, where Lady Bird had done Texas wildflowers petit point chair covers, but had to yield to LBJ's insistence that he sit in an office chair upholstered in cow-hide, with a telephone installed just under the table at his left knee! (You are not supposed to take pictures inside the house, but our guide was kind enough to allow me to photograph this.)
The original century-old rock farmhouse was greatly enlarged over the years, and the place is bigger than it looks. It features a glorious view of the Pedernales River. An immense live oak provides shade in much of the "front yard" while the side yard features an in-ground pool. The family donated the property to the National Park Service in 1972, but Mrs. Johnson retained the right to use the home until her death. Since then, the "Texas Oval Office" has been restored to the condition it was in during Johnson's presidency. Notice the bust of President Eisenhower behind the desk -- it turns out that Ike and LBJ were both born in Texas, and LBJ admired the general. In the formal living room, note the three television sets. Back in the day, there were only three networks, so each television was tuned in to one of them; LBJ obsessively monitored news media and hated to miss any photo or mention of himself.
Although you are permitted to walk the grounds of the White House without being on a tour, you cannot enter the fenced yard without a guide. There is a small gift shop featuring books and DVDs about the Johnson presidency, as well as needlepoint kits and wildflower seed and other souvenirs.
Tours are available from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily.
Additional pictures on my Johnson City page.
As I was growing up in the 60's, I remember hearing references to The Texas Whitehouse. It was exciting to finally see it in person. Members of the Johnson family still come for visits and stay for a time. It's a beautiful spot in the countryside! Soon it will be turned officially over to the National Park Service.
The home of native limestone was originally built by a German immigrant named, William "Polecat" Meier, in 1894. Johnson's aunt and uncle purchased it in 1909. President Johnson's aged aunt asked him to buy it from her in 1951 in order to keep it in the family.
In the front yard, under a large, sheltering tree, lawn furniture formed a circle where staff meetings once occured. I can imagine how peaceful it would have been sitting beneath these trees!
To the left of the house, LBJ's vehicles are displayed in a barn with glass front. There's a great white boat of a car that he used to take visitors on tours of his ranch (picture 3).
An air strip is located towards the back of the house (picture 4)--LBJ used to fly in on Air Force One to either San Antonio or Austin, then hop a smaller plane to the ranch. There is a hangar behind the Texas White House.
LBJ, Lady Bird and the Johnson family are buried in a cemetery within the park. Picture #5 shows the gravestones--LBJ's is the tallest brown monument, while Lady Bird's grave is marked by a large pot of Mums next to him. Her monument is being prepared for placement.
NOTE: In 1972, the Texas White House was donated to the American people by the Johnsons. See Transportation Tip for tour price.