Founded in 1947
The 542-acre dude ranch came into existence when, in 1947, Colonel John H. Lapham purchased it from the original Polish settlers. John’s last name is accredited for ‘L’ in ‘Flying L’.
Lapham, a retired Air Corps Colonel, had a vision to create a place where modern people could go and find themselves lost in time. The Colonel introduced an airstrip and instructed his own flight school at the ranch.
Click the link below for an informative web article: http://www.airfields-freeman.com/TX/Airfields_TX_SanAntonioW.htm#flyingl
Frank Lloyd Wright
Locally, the original Villas are believed to be designed by the famous American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright. On March 30th, 1963 a San Antonio Express Newspaper article titled “Flying L To Reopen”, John H. Lapham’s wife, Lucy Lapham, suggests “…guest accommodations designed by the late Frank Lloyd Wright.” The Villas were intently designed to resemble grounded aircraft. The Villas, when viewed aerially, truly exemplify that of aeronautical design. According to an article from the San Antonio Light newspaper on May 9th, 1948, “The coral brick was made for them in Corpus Christi from sea shells, cement and coral dye which gives a rough in-and-exterior”.
The grand opening of the Flying L was a spectacular event. Using his powerful connections, Colonel Lapham hosted a ‘Ranch & Aviation’ themed fashion show. Industry-leading fashion designer Stanley Marcus, the son of the founder of Neiman Marcus, along with other fashionistas, designed stylish aeronautic and cowboy-oriented apparel exclusively for the event. Journalists and photographers from LIFE magazine attended and later published an article pertaining to the success of the show. Experience a first-hand glimpse of the event in the photos above.
Remembering Colonel John H. Lapham
John Lapham was a retired Air Corps Colonel, Polo player, and Texas Co. Oil Executive. Flying for 28 years and logging over 20,000 airs hours the Colonel was an incredibly experienced pilot. The Colonel along with his Granddaughter, her fiance, and a childhood friend tragically lost their lives in a plane crash at the Flying L on August 2nd, 1956. It’s believed that the Colonel suffered a heart attack while attempting to land his four-seater Tri-Pacer.
The Ranch’s guests have included Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus, John Wayne, Slim Pickens, Willie Nelson, Tex Ritter, Jim Reeves, Ray Price, Buck Owens, Chill Wills, Jack Kramer, and Robert Fuller. The television show The Cisco Kid even filmed an episode at the Ranch.
In 2013, Flying L was purchased by long-time employees. The current owners have placed new emphasis on uncovering and appreciating the rich history of the Ranch. Restoration of the Pilots’ Lounge and T-Hangars have already begun. You can become a part of the Ranch’s rich aeronautical history by becoming a member of our Pilot’s club.