In April of 1973 the church deacon board of Trinity Chapel Assembly of God in Louisville, Kentucky called my family and me from Florida to pastor. We moved from Brandon, Florida where we had pastored for the last 5 years.
The following is an attempt to give a thumb nail sketch of the history of Camp Crestwood in order that not all of the details will be lost for the future generations.
In April of 1973 the church deacon board of Trinity Chapel Assembly of God in Louisville, Kentucky called my family and me from Florida to pastor. We moved from Brandon, Florida where we had pastored for the last 5 years. Since I was a preacher’s son and had always been a part of family camp in the districts where we had resided before, the natural thing was to be interested in the camp facilities at Camp Crestwood, in their condition and the maintenance of them.
While we pastored the church in Louisville for four years, and was serving part of that time as Sectional Presbyter of the Louisville Section, I was involved in camp clean up, and repair for the summer camps.
For several years the duties of the camp were divided between three individuals. Superintendent James C. Ellis was in charge of the programs, planning for speakers, music, and personnel. Assistant Superintendent, LaVerne Snyder was in charge of the food service, kitchen, and dining hall. I was responsible for cleaning, repairing, and preparing the buildings in preparation for occupancy for family camp, and the following kids and youth camps. Of course these were big responsibilities for each one so it was the plan that we would recruit pastors to bring their church people for work days in advance of camp.
For instance, Reverend Eddie Ogletree, pastor of Radcliff Assembly of God, accepted the job of cleaning and repairing the Tabernacle, as it was called then, and got it in readiness for camp. Reverend Floyd Johnson, pastor of Adair Assembly of God assumed the job of one of the concrete dorms to clean and repair, a building which is no longer in existence.
There were several small cabins on either side of the Tabernacle which were used for families to occupy for camp, and also used for youth camps…they were not in very good repair. There were also a couple small buildings which were owned by ministers in the district, but they did not own the land, only the buildings. In time each of these were in such disrepair that they had to be demolished.
The Oaks dorm was built in years prior to my time here, and I understand that the blocks were laid by Reverend Raymond Ross, who is now passed on. The building did not have heat nor air conditioning…some small window air conditioners I believe. But in years since the building has been improved substantially. Central Heat and air conditioning has been installed, a water heater has been added, and the building lighting was updated.
What has come to be called the “speakers cabin”, or the “guest cabin” is not in its original location. The white cabin was called the “cooks cabin”, and was located midway, directly between the cafeteria and Tabernacle. The building was moved to open the central area of the campus about 18 years ago. To move the building we took 2x8 timbers 20’ long and laminated them four thick to make runners for the move. We then used some cut sections of firewood logs to be used for rollers. Then a long cable was wrapped around the building and hooked to an old tractor that I owned. The tractor was a 1935 McCormick Deering tractor with a 1950 Falcon motor in it. Inch by inch the building was moved which the timbers and logs were intermittently moved from the back to the front. It was a long process but the building was moved and a foundation laid, and plumbing installed for the bathrooms.
The Cafeteria and kitchen were in one metal building with the kitchen to one end and a walk in cooler that was in very poor condition. If left much longer the whole facility would have been condemned.
Because the benches in the tabernacle, and the wood shavings on the ground were a fire hazard the district was advised to install a concrete floor. I believe it was under the supervision of Pastor Snyder that this improvement was accomplished in probably 1976.
At the March 1977 District Council which was held at the Bowling Green, First Assembly of God, I was elected to serve the Kentucky District as Secretary Treasurer. This assignment would also include the job of District Sunday School Director, which included conducting the Kid’s camp during the summer camp season. Soon after taking office in the structuring of the district duties I was given the task of Camp Development Director.
In the early years we tried to utilize volunteer help to do much of the maintenance and construction of the camp facilities. One of the first major improvements for the camp was a team from the Shelbyville Assembly of God who remodeled the platform, removing the railing, extending the platform with a circular, stair step front, and installing carpet on the addition.
There was no one living on the camp grounds to care for the grounds and clean the buildings between camps. This was done by volunteers who came for camp, and who drove in from the local churches. During family camp for several years Bill and Sharon Peace from the Maysville, KY, and Ripley, Ohio area helped greatly by cleaning, collecting rent from campers, and maintenance during that time.
However it was necessary to have more help. In the fall of 1977 Pastor Wayne Hemphill from Raceland, KY lost his wife and he made plans to leave the pastorate. He expressed an interest in moving to Crestwood, which he did and became the first full time camp caretaker. While he served in this job, he spent much of his time clearing underbrush, burning, and opening up the dense growth in much of the now open spaces.
About this same time a house became available to us from a resident in Crestwood. Vincent and Louise Fanelli had the frame house on their land in Crestwood on route 22. The building was not in use and they wanted to give it to us if we would have it move. We did have it moved at a cost of $4,000 by a house mover, Bill Edwards, to the campgrounds. At an additional cost we had a septic system installed, the footer poured and a concrete block foundation laid, and central heat and air conditioning installed. The total cost was less than $10, 000. This became the residence for the caretaker then and for all the subsequent persons serving in this capacity.
There had been discussion by the presbytery, and district officers, of the need for a Retreat Center. Pastor Tom Scruggs of Florence, Kentucky, who was an experienced builder and also a member of the District Presbyter Board volunteered to supervise the construction of the building. He had a Mr. Lawrence Hoard, architect from Tennessee to draw the design and the plans were obtained. In 1978 a building associate of Tom Scruggs, Mr. Royce Shelton, brought his equipment and dug the footer. The concrete footer was poured and nothing was done for some time. So since I had done some block laying in past years, my son, Darrell and I laid the foundation. There are a total of just under 2000 concrete blocks from the footer up to the floor level.
Wayne McCallister from Carrolton, another associate of Tom Scruggs, who was a concrete finisher helped in pouring the concrete floor. The rough plumbing was done by some volunteer men within the District. These were men from the Stanton Assembly of God…and this took quite a while to get finished. The concrete block laying from floor to finish was contracted, and it became my duty to supervise the rest of the building. However Royce Shelton did bring equipment and assisted in placing the pre-cast concrete floor and roof slabs on the walls.
When pouring the second floor there was no concrete pumper available so we used a fork lift with a pallet and 5 gallon buckets to get the concrete to the second floor and then took them in a window opening and carried it to spread it from room to room.
When the bond beam was being poured on the top of the second floor wall we did use a concrete pumper but instead of bringing concrete with pee gravel, they brought the regular mix. This caused the 4” hose to clog and fall off of the beam repeatedly. One time I was guiding the hose along the wall and walking backwards when the hose blew off and knocked me off balance causing me to fall about 18 feet to the ground. I fell on brocken blocks and boards with nails in them but by the Lord’s protection I did not have any broken bones nor serious injury. The district Youth director, Loren Kohl was assisting me so I got back up on the wall and we finished the job.
The Retreat Center had a flat roof and it constantly had water leaks so in subsequent years we built a hip roof on top of the flat roof and that has solved the water leaks. This building has served for the purpose it was intended, but has some major need for upgrading. The bathrooms need to be larger, and the plumbing needs some changing. The lighting and carpet need to be replaced and some of the windows need repaired.
The facilities have been available for rental for use by our own Assemblies of God churches, and for other groups as well. There have been a wide variety of groups that have utilized the camp. During the time that I was camp development director we took photos of the grounds and buildings and prepared a promotional flier that was mailed to churches and groups in the surrounding area of the Campgrounds. Initially the camp was just referred to as the Assemblies of God District Camp grounds, but for the promotional material we felt we needed a name for the camp. I proceeded to use the name “Camp Crestwood” since we have a “Camp Kavanaugh” which is the Methodist camp in the Crestwood area. That name has stuck.
In the early 80’s a property owner on the North side of the Camp Grounds, Mr. Maxwell, offered the District his property to purchase. His asking price was negotiated but was still more than the District could afford for the purchase of 12 ½ acres and a small frame manufactured house 24’ x 40’. Ruth and I discussed the possibility of making an offer to assist the District with us purchasing the house with 2 acres of the North East corner of the land, and the District to have 10 ½ acres. The district did not need the house and we did not need more land. This was presented to the District Presbyter board and the price was split at an agreeable figure and the purchase was made. That is how we came to live next door to the Camp Grounds…in 1988 we built the existing home which we live in at present.
In the course of time there have been Camp Committees that have met, planned, and talked about development. There have been a variety of plans to raise funds for this development. There have never been adequate finances to develop the grounds and buildings as it would be desired.
It was determined at one time that there needed to be a long term site plan developed so with the help of a committee this was prepared together with a topography plan prepared by David Allen, who is one of our pastors now in Lexington. He was a member of Faith Assembly of God in Lexington at the time. This topography has helped us when we needed to install the pumping station for the sanitary system to connect to city sewer.
Since the Royal Rangers used the camp grounds for the annual Pow Wow in June a camping area was developed in the newly acquired area to the north-west of the property. This was the 10 ½ acres that was purchased from Mr. Maxwell when he was selling out and moving to Fort Myers. That purchase was in 1982. For a number of years the Royal Rangers enjoyed the camping area and had an old log cabin that was donated by First Assembly of God in Henderson. That log cabin was dismantled and moved to Camp Crestwood and re-erected under the oversight of Tim Snyder who was the district Royal Ranger Commander at that time. After the footer was poured Tim and I laid the concrete blocks for the foundation of that building. The cabin has since been dismantled, sold,
While Richard VanHuss was the District Youth Director, his department was challenged with closing in the Tabernacle. He accepted that challenge and began a fund raising effort. There were offerings raised and about $50,000.00 was raised for this project. However that was not enough for the work to be contracted so I began to contact pastors to bring volunteer teams to do framing, siding, insulation, and ceilings. As we worked together this project was completed. We got ceiling tile, suspended track, and light fixtures donated from Evangel Tabernacle while associate Pastor Dwayne Sadler was in charge of the church construction project, and had surplus material. Pastor Hampton, and some men from Calvary Assembly of God in Louisville did the complete job of installing the ceiling and setting the light fixtures in place. We did have to contract the electrical work on the building, and the central heating and air conditioning. But for the $50,000.00 price tag we did provide a Worship Center fully air conditioned and heated, insulated, and lighted.
What is presently called the Cedars was originally two shuffle board concrete slabs. The concrete was cracked and the shuffle board was never used so it was considered that this could be the floor for another dorm. Consequently District Youth Director Mark Terhune, Reverend Clinton Rogers, who pastored LaGrange Assembly of God and I laid the blocks for that building. Then we got some volunteers to help us put the trusses on and finished the roof. Later window air conditioners were installed which was a major improvement in that building.
While Brother Snyder was over the food service for family camps it was decided to build a new kitchen so Brother Snyder supervised that building. This was a real improvement to have for the first time a concrete block building with a walk in cooler, and electric dish washer, and room for a professional serving line…all with year round potential…heating and air conditioned.
A couple years after that was done it was determined that the dining hall was too small for the growing needs of the camp so plans were made to construct a new dining hall. The metal structure was dismantled and moved to the location of the present open air basket ball court. The floor was extended 20’ and the block building was built. The block laying was contracted for $9,000.00. The roof was built by volunteers from different churches who came to help me.
We were working on the overhang near the front door. A team of men from the Shelbyville church was putting up the soffit when one of the planks being used for scaffold broke. The plank was from the old benches in the tabernacle and evidently had some dry rot…and the jacks that the planks were resting on were too far apart for the conditions. The man who fell the 4’ to the ground crushed both his ankles and was off work for some time. He is well now according to his report.
The metal structure from the old cafeteria was erected at the present location of the outdoor basket ball court. A concrete floor was poured and then we were going to put the old corrugated metal roof on, but while installing that it was determined that it was in too poor condition and it was decided that we would put a wooden frame roof on. That roof is now deteriorating and is in need of some repairs.
The Crestview Dorm was in poor repair. About 15 years ago Reverend Emmet Lanham from Somerset, who had building skills, accepted the project of removing the roof from the building, laying two additional layers of blocks to elevate the roof, and replace the roof. Then the building had to be completely rewired and installed new air conditioners, to make it a fairly comfortable building to house students during the camps.
While Mark Terhune was District Youth Director there was talk of the need to have an outdoor swimming pool. He began to establish a fund with campers paying an additional fee to raise money to build the pool. After two years of raising funds the pool was installed…but under the leadership of then Youth Director Dick VanHuss. The actual pool was contracted out and the deck and fence were built by Dick VanHuss and me with some other men assisting at times. That swimming pool has come into disrepair and has been replaced with a smaller pool that was just installed in the fall of 2005. Caretaker David Foote has modified the deck to accommodate the smaller pool. The original deck and fence are in need of repairs due to the weathering of the wood and the nails showing rust.
While Brother James Ellis was still Superintendent plans were made to construct a new office building. An architect, Melvin Felty, an Assembly of God man from Cincinnati was contacted to assist with the design and plans. In order to build the office building we had to go through the planning and Zoning Commission of Oldham County to obtain easements. We had to have a hearing when neighbors were present to ask questions and make any complaints. Then two acres of the property was rezoned to commercial to accommodate the office building. The Board gave us some instructions that were necessary to make the project acceptable to the neighbors. Brother Ellis and I gave input as to what the current needs, and the future needs would be to plan for the present and the future. The contractor was Mr. Bill Tucker from Buckner, KY. Brother Ellis and I both spent a good bit of time overseeing this development.
Late in the decade of the 90’s there was discussion of construction of an Activity Center. In anticipation of that it was decided that we would seek the assistance of the Assemblies of God RV Volunteers. In order to accommodate them we would need additional RV hook ups so one year in the summer there was a team of RV volunteers who came to develop the sites which are located along Clore Lane just past the Caretakers home. Due to the long time involved in moving forward to construct the Activity Center the momentum was diminished and we only had minimal help from the RV volunteers.
After some time elapsed with one architect drawing plans for $17,000 and then moving to Indianapolis and could no longer work with us, Brothers Biram and VanHuss asked me if I would take on the job of supervising the construction of the building, because I had some knowledge of the building trades. I accepted the job and we began to look for another architect. He had to scrap the plans that we had and begin from scratch. This was a set back in the schedule. It was March 2002 when I was asked to take the job, and we began the ground work the week of July 4th. Mr. Bob Layer who lives across the street from the District office was an excavating contractor and did all the excavation at a big savings to us.
There was a lot of huge rock that had to be broken and moved to get the building at the proper grade. During the construction we had no hired labor so a lot of the work had to he done by whoever was available, and most of the time it was me. I did everything from laying block on the footer, to digging the ditch for the storm drain. Operating grading equipment became one of my newer trades. Mr. Tom Miracle from the church in Beattyville was the subcontractor for the erection of the metal building and also for pouring the concrete from the footer, to the floors.
The goal of Brother Biram was to have the dedication of this building in connection with the District Council of the following year. It seemed impossible to have it far enough complete to dedicate in April of 2003, but the work progressed and with some improvising we did have one afternoon session of the District Council May 2003 at the Camp Grounds and dedicated the new building.
During the dedication service I was given opportunity to extent thanks to the subcontractors and all who helped, including some volunteer help like Al Matherly, Greg Gibson, both from Trinity Chapel, and Don Nelson who lives in a motor home and spends a good deal of time at the Camp RV site. Then to my surprise the District officers, Brothers Biram, and Stan Holder, together with Brother Parritt presented me with a sign that said “Joseph Hardt Activity Center”. This was beyond anything that I could have ever thought of, and it is very humbling. I trust that many people are influenced for good as a result of the use of this building which is actually dedicated to the Glory of God.
There have been many people who have made their mark on the camp grounds and we must say thank you to them…we could not name all of them here…but will name the caretakers that I am aware of. Following Brother Hemphill was Brother and Sister Basil Smith from Stanton, Kentucky, then a young couple who I don’t know their names, and then Brother and Sister Joe Pinion, mother and father of former District Youth Director’s wife, Debbie Amsler, followed by Brother and Sister David Foote who are presently serving. Youth Directors during this period of time have included Richard Dale, Loren Kohl, Mark Terhune, Richard VanHuss, David Amsler, and now Brian Neugent.
Also we thank our present District Superintendent, Reverend Joe Girdler, who has expressed his passion for the continuation of the development of the Camp Crestwood facilities.
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