The Bluebonnet House: The Story of the Iconic Hill Country House Part 1

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Tony Maples Photography


Have you ever seen an old house or building along the roadway and just wondered about its history and the “stories it could tell”? Sure, we all have, some old structure catches our attention for one reason or another. Its size, beauty, age or condition just seem to reach out to us and say “Hey, I’m here, I matter”. We are all familiar with the term “If walls could talk” and sometimes we’re referring to something we know that happened and want to know more about, but more often we are wanting the place to tell its story, enlighten us about what it has seen, heard and experienced.

Well, there is one house in the Texas Hill Country, that may rise above all others in being noticed, talked about, wondered about, rumored about and photographed more than most any other in the area, perhaps even the state. It has been stated that this may be the “most photographed house in Texas” and it almost certainly the most photographed in the Hill Country, other than maybe the Alamo if you consider that “a house”.

The Bluebonnet House: The Story of the Iconic Hill Country House Part 1

It has been called by many names over the years, depending on the era, who lived there, what was known about them and how popular they were. This particular house has been more recently and commonly called the “Bluebonnet House” because of the seasonal sea of Bluebonnets around it as seen from Hwy 281 coming out of Marble Falls. Leaving Marble Falls, heading North on Highway 281 towards Burnet, as you come up over the last hill, there it is, straight ahead, directly in front of you and the road you’re traveling. A large two story house, out in the field all alone, except for the trees, fence line and open field of grass, Bluebonnets, Indian Paints and other “Texas flowers”.

If you catch it at the right time, the scene is actually breathtaking and one that and will stay in your mind’s eye for years to come, it looks more like a painting than something real, almost surreal. The house is so alluring, it has been the cause or close call of many vehicle accidents along this part of the highway from the scores of people that just stop to take a picture or stare. Many have done so from the roadway or outside the fence line and gate, others have trespassed and violated the old house in their personal desire to have something for themselves.

It has that type of draw, something that just calls out to you, asking you to become a part of it. This beautiful, majestic house is the type of home most people dream about, something from a time gone by that would still fit in today as beautiful. The house is set back from the road just right, with big beautiful Oak trees towards the road and “out back’ flanking it, the small outhouse and barn let you know that this place was a homestead of long ago, yet here it is.

As you look closer, you’ll now see that the windows and doors are mostly all long gone, lost through the years of being abandoned and the old metal roof has taken on a tinge of rust giving it a orange color that almost matches the old aging stone walls. Those stones are large, different sizes and obviously set by hand, built with care by a craftsman. The dual fireplace chimneys on each side of the main structure tell you that this was a stately residence, built for use, but also for show as they rise above the roofline. Next to this large two story main structure is a one story structure, attached, but seeming to be from a different era. This part of the home has lost its roof, exposing the skeletal remains of its rafter beams and leaving its interior exposed and naked to the elements staring down and inside for years and years.

The Bluebonnet House: The Story of the Iconic Hill Country House Part 1

If you really look closely, you may note that there seems to be at least two different types of stone that make up the walls, maybe even three types, giving a clue that this home was built in stages. The center structure stones are darker than both sides, but the two sides would have a great void without the large center area, yet it all ties together. Figuring out which came first and what stages the house was built and lived in appears to be a mystery, but the stones offer many clues to help find the answers.

This view and this house have been a landmark for over 150 years. Folks come from far and wide to see the “Bluebonnet House”, just to look, take a picture or other. As we stated, it is considered to be the most photographed, painted or sketched home in this area, possibly in Texas because of its iconic and even romantic presence. Today, most people who are not familiar with it just call it the “Bluebonnet House”, but some of the “old timers” still refer to it by the name they heard all their lives growing up in the area. The names it was known by depended on who was or had lived there at the time it was their home, and what makes a house a home, the families and their stories. So, this house was a home, known in days gone by as the Vandeveer Ranch Headquarters, Vandeveer House, Dorbandt, Flippen and Cavins House among other families that have occupied its walls over the century and a half. Exactly who was there, how long they were they, what happened while they were there seems to be part of the controversy, therein seems to be a secondary story, just whose house is it?

The Bluebonnet House: The Story of the Iconic Hill Country House Part 1

Trying to uncover the history of who built this house, or who added onto it, who called it home and for how long is a story in and of itself. We’re interested in not only its past and present, but also its future, what is to become of the “Bluebonnet House”? The house comes with a lot of intrigue, mystery, rumors and more, just what is it about this old house that draws us to want to know, what is it about this home that makes us want to be a part of it, what can we learn about it and ourselves?

We hope to learn about this house, this home and we want to share it with you as we learn it. With the help of the current owner, Gladys Atkinson, her family and many others, we hope to uncover the story of the “Bluebonnet House”. The latest attention, stories, claims, rumors and interest in this old house of the Texas Hill Country has made this house something that most everyone is interested in learning about and uncovering its secrets. So we’ll be asking, checking, digging for new information and relay it to you in the issues to come. If you have information, photos or other, let us know, it might very well be the piece of the puzzle that allows us all to see this house for what is really is, a home.

Read Part 2 of our series here.

UPDATE (April 15, 2019): We were deeply sorry to learn about the recent passing of the bluebonnet house’s owner Gladys Atkinson. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.

The Bluebonnet House: The Story of the Iconic Hill Country House Part 1