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Camel's Hump Farm on the Johnston Estate

1311 Santee Mill Road Bethlehem, PA  18017

E-mail: victoriabastidas01@gmail.com

History
Learn more by clicking below
The Estate   

Purchased by Archibald Johnston in 1918, the 135 acre beautifully designed estate encompasses over 250 years of Bethlehem history from our agrarian past of the Camel's Hump Farm to the natural lands of the Archibald Johnston Conservation Area and Johnston Preserve to the gorgeous 1920's Curtis M. Lovelace Mansion of the Janet Johnston Housenick and William D. Housenick Memorial Park.

 

Unification of the parcels into one park through trail connections, seamless restoration and programming is a goal of the Friends of Johsnton, Inc.

Archibald Johnston, American Visionary

First Mayor of Bethlehem, President of Bethlehem Steel Company, Philanthropist

Industrialist, Innovator, Negotiator, Leader

Archibald Johnston self-made “Man of The Steel.”

"He is a man of rare executive ability and has an inimitable way of doing business, producing results where others fail." Men of Bethlehem, Fred Shankweiler, 1918

 

Archibald Johnston was born May 30,1865 in Phoenixville, PA to Joseph and Martha E. Stroman Johnston. His family moved to Bethlehem and he graduated from High School in 1880 at the age of 15.  He went to work with his father at the Bethlehem Iron Company for five years before entering Lehigh University.  He graduated Lehigh University as a mechanical engineer in 1889, and because of his hands-on experience and the respect of his colleagues was placed in leadership roles at Bethlehem Steel Company. He worked his way up through  the ranks at Bethlehem Steel Co., ultimately becoming President. Johnston's keen ability to work with groups and come to an understanding made him an ideal candidate to bring together the boroughs of Bethlehem into the unified City of today.  Archibald was reluctant to take on this task and only consented to become a candidate when "swamped with a petition signed by nearly 5,000 of the leading citizens of the community."

 

During his tenure as Mayor of Bethlehem from 1918-1921, he continued his efforts towards unification of the boroughs, completed the Hill to Hill bridge and planned for the city of today. He continued to support his community by serving on the Boards of many charitable organizations and is said to have saved Moravian College from closing in its “darkest hour.” 

 

Archibald Johnston retired from Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1927 to start life again as a gentleman farmer.  He died February 1, 1948 at home on his beloved Camel's Hump Farms.

 

Additional information about Archibald Johnston will be added soon. Check back often

History of the Estate 

In 1917 Archibald Johnston purchased 115 acres of land located in Bethlehem City and Bethlehem Township bound by Santee Mill Road, Route 191, Christian Spring Road and the Monocacy Creek.  This served as his summer estate in the shadow of the mountain that he renamed Camel's Hump. Johnston chose this beautiful property for its rich farm soil and location on the banks of the Monocacy Creek. The more than 70 springs forced to the surface by Camel's Hump Mountain provided the freshwater needed to sustain Camel's Hump Farm. The estate became the family home for more than three generations of the Johnston family started by Archibald and his Wife Elizabeth Borhek Johnston.

Archibald B. and his wife raised their three daughters, Elizabeth (Betsy) Johnston Prime, Janet Johnston Housenick, and Amanda (Johnny) Leckonby on the estate land that comprises the 135 acres of the Johnston Estate of today.

 

During the Great Depression, many of Archibald Johnston's neighbors were facing financial hardship and were losing their farms. Archibald purchased his neighbors' mortgages and set up trusts for each parcel so that the land owners could borrow money for seed and equipment and stay and work their farms. The farms were safeguarded and the families were given two generations to earn back their deeds. The estate grew to over 600 acres and became one of the first cooperative farms in Pennsylvania- Camel's Hump Farms. Together, Archibald and his neighbors created a self sustaining farm, sold their goods, weathered the financial storm and survived the Great Depression.

 

Archibald Johnston and his heirs have preserved the estate for nearly a century. The Friends of Johnston, Natural Lands Trust, Bethlehem Township, and Northampton County are committed to preservation of this estate for generations to come.

Camel's Hump Farm

The preservation of the farm started with an act of kindness...

 

In 2013 student volunteers replanted 1,200 trees on the Archibald Johnston Conservation Area that had been wiped out in Hurricane Irene. When the group found out that people were walking into private backyards from the park they volunteered to plant a hedge row of natve swamp rose and evergreens to help out. On the second day the volunteers were asked about how to place the land in conservation. Two years later after the same volunteers petitioned their local, state and national representatives and raised funds from Northampton County for Open Space funds, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation of Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and local businesses and individuals the Friends of Johnston together with Natural Lands Trust were able save the farm. The Friends of Johnston purchased the 3.4 acres of Camel's Hump Farm historic buildings and Natural Lands Trust purchased the 18 acres of farmland that the Friends of Johnston now manages.

 

The Friends of Johnston, Inc.  purchased the historic farm buildings and 3.4 acres of Camel's Hump Farm in 2015 from the estate of Archibald Johnston's granddaughter, Amanda Johnston Leckonby. The intent was to preserve and reuse the buildings as a Community Center for Nature, Education, Wellness and the Arts and the home for the organization. The historic buildings of the farm include: a 1722 farmhouse, 1836 Pennsylvania doubledecker bank barn, a guest house renovated from a small barn, a greenhouse and a cabin and offers many opportunities for classroom and gathering spaces.

 

Our primary goal is to protect the land and buildings through conservation, the development of programming, and fundraising events that will provide revenue to sustain the farm into the future.

 

As the Johnston Estate moves forward our site and programs will evolve in response to the needs of our community. It is the hope of the Friends of Johnston that we will provide the framework necessary to sustainably develop and preserve this beautiful part of our history for our future.

The Mansion

 

The beautifully designed estate reflects the influence of the 1920’s and Archibald Johnston’s high regard for nature and the arts. The home, completed in 1923, was designed by prominent Bethlehem architect, Curtis M. Lovelace and was built utilizing Bethlehem Steel for its structural elements.  

 

The 22-room Adam Style Colonial Revival Mansion was designed in 1920 by a young Bethlehem architect, Curtis M. Lovelace, one of the founders of Lovelace Spillman, the predecessor firm to Spillman Farmer Architects of Bethlehem, PA. Lovelace graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1914 and worked at the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company in 1917 during Archibald Johnston’s tenure as President of Bethlehem Steel. Co. In 1919 Lovelace struck out to begin his own firm. It is likely that Archibald Johnston provided this young gifted architect with one of his first commissions. Most of the original architectural details are still intact in this gracious home. The interior contains beautiful leaded glass Palladian windows, Mercer tile floors, full wall fireplaces and a kitchen and Butler’s Pantry with built-in cabinetry in all extremely good condition. The Grand Reception Hall radiates out to generously proportioned Living room, Dining room and Conservatory that can easily accommodate large future events. The remaining 19 rooms are easily adaptable for use as meeting, administrative and museum space. Restoration utilizing green energy technologies will serve as a demonstration of the benefits for the environment and to decrease operating costs. 

Archibald Johnston Conservation Area

Comprising 53.6 acres of wetlands, pathways and forested greenway along the Monocacy Creek, the land was donated by Janet Johnston Housenick and William D. Housenick to Bethlehem Township with a $2.0 million endowment. This area is being preserved and managed by the Friends of Johnston for habitat restoration, stream quality restoration, storm water management, watershed education and stream monitoring for scientific research. The Monocacy Creek Greenway Trail runs through this parcel.

Archibald Johnston Preserve

The preserve, 44 acres of farmland was purchased by Natural Lands Trust, a Pennsylvania certified land conservation organization from the Estate of Amanda Leckonby and Central Moravian Church in 2015. It borders Linden St. or Route 191 and forms the eastern boundary of the estate. Funds from Northampton County Open Space Initiative and the PA Department of Conservation of Natural Resources were used for this purpose.

Under the umbrella of the Natural Lands Trust, the Friends of Johnston, Inc. is managing this property and the plans for this include converting this marginal agricultural land into a usable and functional park.

Our goal is to develop a park that encourages wildlife diversity and health through effective land planning and storm-water management. We envision a relaxing space for the community with walkways, hiking paths, programs that educate the community on how natural systems work and how to create a naturally balanced and sustainable ecosystem.