Before Seminary Park was Seminary Park
With all the uproar over Seminary Park possibly becoming a housing development, this seemed a good time to remind people what a historic site that small plot of ground is.
It began as "Block number six" in minister and educator Francis W. Emmons' 1838 addition to Noblesville.
The first building to occupy that space was the County Seminary, a two-story brick schoolhouse which opened in 1852. (A seminary in those days was simply any institute of higher learning.)
In 1869, after 17 years, the trustees decided a new school was needed. The old one must have been in pretty bad shape by then because according to the Hamilton County Register, the first thing a stranger did when arriving in Noblesville was to "make fun of our old school house."
The following year the old seminary was torn down and construction was begun on a new building - another two-story brick structure (plus a basement) - at the same location.
When the new Noblesville Seminary opened in 1872, the state superintendent of public instruction, Milton B. Hopkins, called it "the cheapest and finest country school building in the state."
Later known as Second Ward, it served the students of Noblesville for 97 years. In the beginning, all grades, from one to twelve, were taught there, but as the school system's needs changed, the mix of grades changed as well. Toward the end of its existence, Second Ward was strictly an elementary school.
Several generations of Noblesville children, primarily those from the south side, received an education at Second Ward. Among them were Hamilton County Circuit Court judges C. M. Gentry and Fred Hines, and Noblesville's astronaut, William "Pete" Knight, the holder of the world's speed record for flight in a winged, powered aircraft.
In older photos, a cupola is visible atop the school building. According to an August 19, 1969 Noblesville Daily Ledger article, that was removed shortly after World War II when it was hit repeatedly by lightning.
The article stated that the cupola had been used by volunteer plane spotters during the war. That was a bit of information I was happy to run across because it confirmed a story Jerry Snyder told me several years ago about looking for enemy planes from a Noblesville rooftop when she was a member of the Junior Air Raid Wardens.
Second Ward's last classes were held in the spring of 1968. The following September, students who would have attended Second Ward and Third Ward moved into the new Stony Creek Elementary.
Second Ward was sold to the city for $25,000 two months later. The school board had wanted the property rezoned for commercial use, but the city was unwilling to do that, perhaps because they were considering the construction of a fire station there.
For some reason the fire station idea was soon abandoned, however, and at the time the building was razed in October of 1969, the Ledger reported that a neighborhood playground was planned for the site.
Seminary Park was established in 1983, and in the years since, has been both a valuable oasis of green space, and a venue for outdoor activities such as concerts and Shakespeare in the Park.
I'm glad the park has been saved. We've lost so much of Old Noblesville lately (and will lose yet another piece when the Nickel Plate Railroad line, one of our oldest and most unique assets, is taken from us.) It's nice to be able to put Seminary Park in the "win" column.
Notable Nineties Update: I've added 100 year-old Jean Marie Diersing to the list and want to add my congratulations!
Paula Dunn's From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at email@example.com
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