Restoration needed for the Archibald Johnston Estate
Hidden away on a 55-acre estate nestled between routes 191 and 22 is a wonderful piece of history that time has touched. A perfect example of something that was once grand but has fallen into disrepair as nature slowly reclaims the property. In its glory this was the estate of Archibald Johnston the first mayor of Bethlehem and president and first vice president of Bethlehem Iron Company – the predecessor to Bethlehem Steel Corp.
The estate, once known as Camel Hump Farm, is now part of the Housenick Park and Archibald Johnston Conservation Area and public park. The property was acquired in 1919 by Archie Johnston family and a family home was built and occupied by 1923. The original property was 600 acres consisting of an arboretum and vast gardens, tennis courts, a boathouse, orchards, a lime kiln, a fountain, a riding area, and the main house, all planned and constructed under the watch of Johnston.
Penn State Extension hosted an event April 24 focusing on the many trees, specifically apple trees on the Archibald Johnston Estate that were planted by Johnston. as well as a historic perspective of life in the 1920s. Presented by museum and historical consultant and president of the non-profit Archie Mansion Project John Marquette, Penn State Extension representatives talked about the variety of apples and offered grafting demonstrations.
A sensory mix of apple blossoms and flowering trees, blended with the ever present hum of Route 22 traffic encircled visitors as Marquette led a tour of the property. Marquette explained how the Johnston’s granddaughter, Janet, bequeathed 55 acres including the mansion to Bethlehem Township as a public park in 2005. Marquette spoke of improvements that he has seen on the property since 2013. Most recently in 2019 the Bethlehem Township’s Board of Commissioners entered into an agreement with the Housenick Foundation’s trustees to stabilize and restore the exterior of the mansion on condition that the township raise private funds to restore the interior for meaningful use. Hence the creation of the non-profit Archie Mansion Project.