Commentary by Don Seal
From the latter part of the 19th century through the early 20th century, a sure sign that a city had arrived was when the elected officials decided to build a large park. This trend started in New York City with Central Park and soon spread to cities all across the nation. Indianapolis joined the park movement with Garfield Park and soon smaller cities like Anderson followed suit with the construction of Shadyside Park. Then it was time for Noblesville.
In 1925, city leaders decided to join the park movement. After looking around at various sites, the city’s first large park would be on land just north of downtown. The only problem was the owner. The mayor of Noblesville owned the land and in order for him to sell it, he needed to resign from office. He did just that, the city sold bonds, bought the property, then had a special election and reelected the “retired” mayor.
In 1926, the city formed a parks board and started work on the land. The first thing they did was plant more than 3,000 trees and named the area Forest Park. They also built a large pavilion, the Forest Park Inn, and decided to build Hamilton County’s first golf course.
The city hired the country’s preeminent golf course architect, Tom Bendelow, to design the course and asked businesses and civic groups to assist with construction. In 1928, Forest Park Golf Course was completed and was handed over to the city free of debt.
Eli Lilly Co. had a pig serum research facility located just north of the park property and in the early ’30s, the Ball Brothers of Muncie purchased the property and donated it to Noblesville. In the late ’30s the city built a pool and renovated the serum research building into a bathhouse. They also dismantled the pig barns and constructed a baseball diamond.
During that same period, the Tom Thumb miniature golf course was constructed. And lumber from dismantled pig barns was reused in the construction of shelters. Playgrounds as well as a permanent croquet facility were installed. Forest Park was ready to welcome residents and visitors as the place for “Your Vacation in Town.”
Don Seal is a board member of the Noblesville Parks Foundation and former director of the Noblesville Parks Dept. For more information on the parks foundation, visit www.cityofnoblesville.org/parks.