The former first couple use the 1,600-acre property as a serene retreat

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
July 08, 2014 07:45 PM
Credit: Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest

Every home has a history, but this one holds a place in American history.

Former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush have opened up their famous Crawford, Texas, ranch to Architectural Digest – and the images are dazzling.

The eco-friendly, 1,600-acre property once dubbed the Western White House has hosted world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. It was also the scene of Jenna Bush Hager’s 2008 wedding and the spot where then-president Bush famously cleared brush during his two terms in office.

Then as now, the natural setting makes Prairie Chapel Ranch a peaceful retreat for the couple, who tried to stay true to the landscape when they completed the home in 2001.

“We wanted to see and enjoy the beauty as much as possible,” the former president tells the magazine for its August cover story.

The house itself is fairly understated – it’s a three-bedroom, one-story limestone abode with an adjacent two-suite guesthouse. Yet, striking touches make it impressively presidential, like the 40-mile network of bike trails, a secluded tree-shaded swimming pool and a private 10-acre lake stocked with bass. (The former president enjoys fishing, and says his largest catch has been a ten-pounder.)

“We wanted the house to fit into the landscape,” says Mrs. Bush, who worked with Texas architect David Heymann to ensure the home is unobtrusively nestled in a grove of live oaks and cedar elms. “It’s slightly motel-ish, but we love that.”

Heymann also added sustainable features including a geothermal energy system for heating and cooling, and a rainwater run-off that goes from the roof into a gravel-filled moat – that water is then used to irrigate the lawns.

Although the Bushes continue to use their Dallas home as their primary residence, the Crawford ranch serves as a place where they can enjoy time with extended family, including granddaughter Mila. It’s also a serene spot where the former president can pursue his latest passion – painting.

The former 43rd president often paints in the home’s enclosed breezeway (the windows are replaced with screens in warm weather) and two of his pet portraits occupy the study.

The Bushes made the ranch their first stop once they vacated the White House in January 2009, and the former first lady has made it clear the property holds a special place in their hearts.

“Having this home and this beautiful property is a wonderful way to think about how we want our lives to be forever,” Laura told [CELEBRITY_LINK” “” “” “0” ] in 2010.

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