Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park- Stonewall Texas
It is free to drive around the grounds. You stop and get a pass at the main visitor center. There is also a 25 minute film shown, with LBJ discussing his home and growing up here. There is also a very nice and friendly gift shop.
At the gift shop, there is a CD/DVD combo you can buy (for $7!). The CD is narrated so that you can drive around the park and listen to stories about the sites in the park you are seeing. We were really glad that we had the CD as we drove around the park. The DVD has several old TC clips of the Johnsons at their home.
One of the first things you see as you drive into the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is the Junction School. It is where Lyndon, at 4 years old, learned to read. 53 years later, he would return as President to sign the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
There is a reconstructed birth site house that Johnson built in 1964 as a guest house.
There is the Johnson Family Cemetery, where LBJ and Ladybird, among other family members, are buried.
There is also a working farm, and you might have to drive very carefully at times, as cattle may cross the driving path.
A plane used by Johnson, and several of his cars are also displayed. Of course, the main attraction is the Texas White House.
Near the plane is another nice visitor center. Here, for $3, you can buy a ticket to tour Lyndon's Texas White House. They do not allow photos inside of the house (the DVD from the gift shop does show a lot of what you would see on the tour).
Oh, and for an idea of how the tour was handled BEFORE the Texas White House became open to the public, read this well written article from Chris White. He did a bus tour on the grounds in 2008.
On the tour, we were told that Lyndon spent about a quarter of his Presidency here. The Ranch was his home, and he loved being there. Lady Bird Johnson continued living here after Lyndon's death in 1973. She lived at the Ranch until her death in 2007. At that point, the National Park Service took over, and opened it up for tours.
I asked our ranger guide about the process of restoring the home to its late 60s early 70s appearance. The ranger told me that Lady Bird did have a great awareness of the historical importance of the home, and their belongings, and she kept many things in storage. So, they have been able to get all of the great items that are shown in the home from what she put away in storage.
Throughout the home, phones are everywhere. LBJ was obsessed with keeping a phone very close. Some rooms had multiple phones. There is a phone under the kitchen table, right where Lyndon would be seated.
Outside of the home, there are the concrete blocks where LBJ would ask important visitors to sign their names in concrete. I was personally most impressed with the signatures of astronauts (there is a video clip on the Apollo astronauts visiting the ranch on the DVD).
There is a nice museum on the property that houses Lyndon Johnson's cars. We stopped there briefly on our way out.
The house is actually warm and comfortable. It seemed to me to be a bit humble for a President.
The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is a great, well managed Presidential site. I believe it may be very unique in that, within the park, you can see the birth and death site of a President, along with paying respects at the burial site.