Seal of Lower Saucon Township
3700 Old Philadelphia Pike / Bethlehem, Pa 18015 / 610-865-3291

Wagner - Holum Farmstead

Wagner - Holum Farmstead The Wagner-Holum Farmstead is less than 5 acres and located between Meadows Road and Saucon Creek in the south-central area of the Township. To the north of the property and across the Saucon Creek is the Borough of Hellertown. East and bordering the property is the Saucon Rail Trail.

The initial deeded property of 184 acres was received from Thomas & Richard Penn in 1752 by Christopher (Stoffel) Wagner Esq. Christopher amassed 355 acres of property. The Wagner's were an affluent family in the Township. Jacob, a grandson of Christopher, was a Justice of Peace and Captain of the township’s militia from 1777-1783 (8th Company of the 1st Battalion in the 1st Regiment) and served under George Washington at the Battle of Trenton. His brother John was an Ensign in that company and would later become a Captain in 1780-1783 (8th Company of the 4th Battalion) in the Revolutionary War.

The property came into the hands of Christopher's grandson; Jacob, after his passing 1806. He became the figurehead in development of the property into lime rich fertile soil for farming. The fertile soil resulted in crop production of wheat, rye, corn, and oats that far exceeded township, county and even state averages as reported in the 1850 Agricultural Census. Jacob’s property exceeded 428 acres of Township land, but not all was farmed. Upon his death in 1842 the farm was willed to his son John (Johannes).

The Wagners were not only prosperous German farmers but also successful entrepreneurs. They owned the local grist mill (the Wagner Grist Mill now the site of the Hellertown Historical Society), a limestone quarry that sold limestone to the Thomas Iron Works in Hellertown, which had at least 3 lime kilns that furnished lime to local farmers which was used for soil conditioning, as well as operated a mechanical threshing operation. The wealth John enjoyed from the family’s businesses and successful farmed property allowed him to build, an envy of other farmers, one of the largest barns in the Township and PA Stone Standard Closed Forebay barns in the county. Farmers built barns as their symbol of land ownership, status, and farming success. The barn had more importance to most farmers than their own house.

The Farmstead is an excellent example of a Germanic farm that existed in this area of Pennsylvania labeled the "Great Valley Agricultural Region" in the late 1700, 1800 & early 1900's. The property consists of an early Victorian period midcentury vernacular two section brick house, the property's centerpiece a large stone barn dated 1849, and six smaller outbuildings adorn the picturesque property complete with a stone springhouse (in which the family lived for a period). Also, remnants of three other buildings are visible. All buildings except the earlier built springhouse appear to date c.1840 - c.1940

Because of the size of the barn (40 x 80) and using the most talented craftsman, carpenters, timber framers and stone masons that John Wagner could obtain with the skills he demanded, it has resulted in creating a structure that is unmatched in other barns. Talent in its construction is suspected to have come from outside the area.

The only local comparable barn construction of the John Wagner barn may be his brother's. It is the Abraham Wagner barn built 1851, built two years after the John Wagner barn completion. Because similar building qualities existed in workmanship, but only a smaller footprint, the barn is suspected to have been built by the same builder. That barn was converted into a residence and is less than one mile from the farmstead on Walnut Street (Skibo Road).

The superb workmanship of the John Wagner barn strongly suggests that the builder was deeply entrenched with timber framing traditions. Those traditions were taken from a much earlier existing generation of German building faithfulness to eighteenth century building artisans.

Timber framers, craftsmen, masons, and barn enthusiasts that have toured the John Wagner barn have agreed with the state's barn “scholar” (Robert Ensminger) who had toured thousands of barns throughout the state, country, and Europe. He termed the barn "The Cadillac of Barns".

Research appears to support that it is the longest farmed property that remained in a family in the Township - 219 years and 6 generations. The property left the Wagner family in 1971 and since had three owners. The present owners since 1986 are Gerald and Joanne Holum who have worked on continuing restoration projects on the property because it had come into disarray. The farmstead was listed on the National Register of Historic Places July 23, 2020.

Most listings are made under only one of the four criteria needed for listing, but this farmstead is listed under dual criteria. One is architectural/craftsmanship (work of masters) and the other is historic significance (a representative example of a 18th/19th century Germanic Great Valley farm).

The farmstead is the Townships only private residence that is listed in the National Register, and is one of only 17 farmsteads that is listed in the entire state.

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© 2017 Lower Saucon Township, 3700 Old Philadelphia Pike / Bethlehem, Pa 18015 / 610-865-3291