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December 22, 2019
Giving Back: The Archie Project
In the first decade of the 20th century, Archibald Johnston, a graduate of Lehigh University, moved up the ranks of the Bethlehem Steel Company to eventually become its vice president in charge of foreign sales. While there, Johnston led the consolidation campaign to create the modern city of Bethlehem, and became its first mayor. He served one term and then moved to his new country estate, “Camel’s Hump Farm” in Bethlehem Township.
The mansion that Johnston had built on the farm in 1923—a 6,000-square foot, two-story structure—still stands on what is now the 55-acre Janet and William D. Housenick Memorial Park. (The park itself is named after Janet Johnston Housenick, the granddaughter of Archibald Johnston and its donor.) The mansion had long been in a state of disrepair, so in May 2018, Bethlehem Township Commissioners and the Housenick Foundation Trustees agreed to renovate the mansion’s exterior on the condition that a private organization would raise funds for the interior. That’s where retired librarian and author, John Marquette, who has enjoyed the park and the mansion since 2013, comes in.
John is the president of The Archie Project, a 501(c)(3) organization formed in early 2019 to raise funds to restore the interior of the historic Archibald Johnston Mansion. “One of the great things about our work and restoring the mansion,” John says, “is that it is at the center of a park that provides something different in every one of the 12 months of the year. When you come out here in December, you will have just as great a visit as you would in the middle of July.”
The exterior renovation of the mansion was completed in the spring of 2019, so now John’s Archie Project is free to pursue its ambitious goals for the interior. “It needs to be a building that supports the mission, goals, and objectives of Bethlehem Township. And I believe it also has the potential to be a great educational resource—environmental sciences, the arts, theatre, music. We’d like to find ourselves an educational institution to partner with,” John says.
But big projects need big money, so The Archie Project is about to launch a capital campaign and pursue grant opportunities from foundations and corporations with a presence in the Township and in Pennsylvania, as well as seek casino and hotel tax revenue distributions to complete the work on the mansion’s interior.
Most importantly, the ultimate goal of The Archie Project is to ensure that the mansion and surrounding property is universally accessible to the people of the Lehigh Valley, so that people with any kind of mobility need can use as much of the property as possible.
“I’d like to think that we have this gem for everyone in the Lehigh Valley or farther,” John says, “but really it’s all about what we can do for the residents of Bethlehem Township, so they have a place where they can come and say, ‘This is our park. This our place.’”
To learn more about The Archie Project, visit archieproject.org.