Almost every president since George Washington has established a secondary “White House” that they would retire to from time to time to relax and recharge their batteries. Often known colloquially by many names, be it the Summer White House, the Winter White House, or the Western White House, it has long been a standing tradition for presidents to maintain secondary residences during their time in office. Two presidents in particular, took this tradition to perhaps its fullest extent, and both happen to choose Texas as their backup.
The Texas White House. Lyndon B. Johnson was in many ways the stereo typical Texan that you might see lambasted on TV: larger than life in all regards, he was a loud talking, brash, confident politician that dominated conversations, even on the national scale. During his time in office, Johnson would spend nearly 500 days (cumulative total) in residence at the LBJ Ranch, which became known simply as the “Texas White House,” a title the home on the property is still referred to. Located about 50 miles west of Austin in central Texas, the area, officially called Historical Park, is actually the birthplace and final resting place of Johnson as well.
The park is now split into two different areas, known as Johnson City and LBJ Ranch. The Ranch holds the president’s first school, birthplace, Texas White House, and the Johnson Family Cemetery, which Johnson City is home to the president’s boyhood home, his grandparent’s log cabin settlement, and the National Park Visitor Center. The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, donated by the Johnson family, is actually located in Austin Texas.
The Crawford Ranch. President Johnson wasn’t the only president that loved to spend his time away from Washington DC. President George W. Bush also logged quite a bit of time at his “Western White House,” totaling 490 days altogether during his 8 years as president. Known officially as Prairie Chapel Ranch, the complex sprawls over 1583 acres about 10 miles northwest of Crawford, Texas. President Bush would often use the function ranch as a vocational retreat and also frequently hosted foreign dignitaries, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The tone of the ranch, even during working days, was much less formal than that found in the White House, with collars open and no ties. Blue jeans and boots were often allowed as part of the dress code on the ranch. A southwestern motif pervades the ranch, and most meals are centered on that focus as well. One prized souvenir for visitors is award to those that either run 3 miles or bike 10 when the recorded temperate reaches over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Known as the President’s 100-Degree Club, awardees are presented a custom grey t-shirt.
For whatever reason, presidents from Texas can never seem to stay away for long. The Lone Star State seems to just have that siren song.