Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Roy and I picked a nice day last week to visit the Lyndon B. Johnson State and National Historical Parks.The national park is shown in green on this map. When visiting these parks you'll want to set aside plenty of time for your visit. Roy and I spent 5 hours touring, and that's with just skimming through the museums. The parks have free admission, provide a nicely done free driving tour c.d., and it's only $2.00 per person to tour the interior of Lyndon and Ladybird's home. This blog will feature the national park, and LBJ's family history. In the next blog I'll cover the state park, which is more of an overview of life in the early 1900s.

The first building you'll see upon entering the national park is this one room school house. Lyndon lived a short distance up the road and could hear the children playing at recess. At age 4 he was allowed to attend school here for a couple of months. It must have impacted him deeply, as he went to college and became a teacher. He returned to this school as our 36th President to sign an education funding bill in the presence of his former teacher and classmates.

This is the interior of the school taken through Plexiglas, which I might add is quite challenging. When I see the early life of President Johnson, I'm always a little taken back by his having grown up in a time of oil lamps, wood stove heat, and limited indoor plumbing. I was told that as a legislator he brought electricity to Johnson City in the 1930s. Depending how far people lived outside of town, there wasn't electricity until the 1950s! As president from 1963-1969, doesn't that make him seem like he would have grown-up with more modern amenities?

This is a reconstruction of Lyndon's birth home. He was born in 1908 at home, with the help of a midwife neighbor. He lived here until age 5, at which time the family moved to the boyhood home in Johnson City. Johnson City is 14 miles away. I love the big yard and trees. It's very peaceful.

Here is a close-up of his reconstructed birth home. L.B.J. and Ladybird purchased the property where the original home stood in 1964, and had it rebuilt as a guest house. It is not meant to be an exact interpretation, but is close.

This is the original home of the one pictured above. It was built in 1889 by L.B.J.'s grandfather Samuel Ealy Johnson Sr.. Remember the grandfather that lived in the dogtrot cabin at the site of what would become Johnson City? That's him in the center of the photo. The other people in the picture weren't identified, but they are probably Samuel's wife, Eliza, and some of their 9 children. The house was built in the dogtrot style. Lyndon's parents moved into this home after their marriage in 1907.

In the one room on the right side of the house is a combination bedroom-sitting room.

Across the open dogtrot in the left side of the house is a combination bedroom-sitting room and attached nursery. The doorway to the right goes to what appears to be a dining room.

This is the doorway to the dining room and what appears to be the doorway to a kitchen.

Across the road from the home where Lyndon was born is the Johnson family cemetery.

The two larger headstones are Lyndon and Ladybird's. Ladybird's given name is Claudia Alta Taylor. Ladybird is a childhood nickname. The headstones to the left are Lyndon's siblings and their spouses. The headstones to the right are his parents and grandparents. I feel deeply touched by the continuity of generations of this family having lived in this area and spanning such an interesting time in history.

The Lutheran church across the field was built in 1908, the year L.B.J. was born. It sits in view of his birth home at quite a distance. It became the home of the first Headstart program enacted by President Johnson in 1965. After his time in office, he used to visit the kids in the Headstart program and bring them candy. They began calling him Mr. Jellybean! There's some trivia for you!

After Samuel Ealy Johnson Sr. and his wife Eliza left the dogtrot cabin in Johnson City, they came to live in this home. It is within walking distance from the home where Lyndon was born. Lyndon's grandfather lived here until 1915 and his grandmother until 1917.

I enjoyed this picture. There's grandfather sitting in his Model T Ford. Grandmother is in the wheelchair. The boy standing in front of the vehicle is thought to be Lyndon.

This is the entrance to Lyndon and Ladybird's ranch, and what became known as the Texas Whitehouse. The house and 250 acres were purchased from Lyndon's aunt in 1951. Lyndon and Ladybird expanded the ranch to approximately 3,000 acres. The expansive land is very impressive to drive through.

The first building you come to is the showbarn. Lyndon had the drive through the center of it built just wide enough for his Lincoln Continentals to pass through. He had washed and groomed prized Herefords in the pens to show to visiting dignitaries.

Here is a young Hereford bull. The showbarn informational signs openly discuss the building of L.B.J.'s public image as a rancher and businessman. Very little of their income came from operating the ranch.

As you near the house, you come onto what would be the airstrip taxi area and hangar. When returning home the president would travel in the large Air Force One to the Austin airport and then transfer to this smaller jet that he affectionately called Air Force One Half. Johnson was the first president to have a jet assigned to him. The jet is a Lockheed JetStar VC-140.

Here is an overview of the Johnson's home, referred to as the Texas Whitehouse. The hangar is center with a cottage for the secret service and a telecommunications station behind it. Their home is the distant white home.

Inside the hangar is a wonderfully done museum.

Here is one of his Lincoln Continentals.

The blue car is an amphibian. If you look back on the map at the beginning of the blog, you'll see an entrance to the Texas Whitehouse directly in front of the home. The driveway goes down into the Pedernales River. Johnson is said to have enjoyed pulling a practical joke on newcomers by taking this entry with the amphicar, claim his brakes quit, and then run the car into the river. I'm not so sure that would be funny. Pretty cool, though, seeing a picture of it floating in the river!

This is his All Terrain vehicle. He had it modified so it had a back seat, gun rack, and wet bar.

Looks like fun!

This is the secret service cottage next to the hangar and the telecommunications building behind it. Tours aren't currently available through these buildings.

This is Ladybird and Lyndon's home. It became known as the Texas Whitehouse, as he spent so much of his time as president working from home.

President Johnson's office is self contained in the portion of the home to the forefront of the picture. It consists of one modest sized room. Exiting his office onto the porch you then enter the side door into the family room. The downstairs portion of the home was just completed for full touring this December. Pictures are not allowed inside the home, but I'm sure they can be found online. Although the home had a nice country home feel, it also felt very much like a command post. There were phones in every room including the bathroom, 4 televisions in the family room and 4 televisions in the bedroom. The televisions were for monitoring news channels. President Johnson died of a heart attack at age 65 while at home. Ladybird lived in this home until 2007 and died at age 94.