From Time to Thyme
By Paula Dunn
If you’ve lived in this area as long as I have, I don’t have to tell you today’s Noblesville is nothing like the city I knew growing up here in the 1960s and ‘70s. I used to be comforted by the thought that at least I was surrounded by familiar buildings, but even that’s not as true as it once was.
It’s a little scary to think how many iconic Noblesville landmarks have disappeared in just the last 30 years — the Firestone building, the Carnegie library, the ABC Drive-In, the Noblesville Milling Company’s concrete silos and wooden grain elevators . . .
I could keep going, but I want to stop and focus on one of those lost landmarks that I’ve never featured in this column before, Forest Park’s log cabin.
The cabin was said to have been built in the 1860s by a German immigrant named William “Billy” Warnica. (A couple of articles written around the time the cabin was moved to the park spell the name “Warnaca,” but based on older newspaper items, I believe “Warnica” is correct.)
Forest Park was only a year old in 1927 when members of the park board found the cabin on the George Webster farm, near the intersection of 209th Street/Carrigan Road and Hague Road in the rural neighborhood known as “Stringtown.”
The board members, Dr. Earl Brooks, Will Hayes and Samuel Mott, ponied up $50 of their own money to buy the building, but they had to depend on donations of money, material and labor to restore it — and it did need a lot of work.
Although the cabin’s poplar walls were sound, the roof had fallen in and had to be replaced. A new foundation, a new chimney and a fireplace were also needed.
Members of the local American Legion post came to the rescue. They raised the money to pay for the roof and for moving the dismantled cabin to its new location on the west edge of the park, near the intersection of the park’s two main drives. They also helped reassemble the cabin.
The fully restored “Cabin Club House,” as it was originally called, was dedicated June 9, 1929 in a ceremony attended by several hundred people.
At the time of the dedication, the upper floor contained 15 double bunks for overnight stays. The lower floor was furnished with rustic furniture and boasted a fully equipped kitchen with service for 30 (“Forest Park” was printed on every piece of the dinnerware!)
The park board’s main objective in buying the old cabin was to provide meeting space for local organizations, but they soon decided it would also be the perfect place to house a county museum.
To that end, the Hamilton County Museum Association was organized to provide funds for the museum’s maintenance. Members paid annual dues of $1.00, and promised to attempt to recruit one new member during the year.
The museum only lasted a short time, but the cabin itself remained a popular feature of the park for nearly 70 years. Countless meetings, pitch-ins, reunions, church classes and scout outings were held in it.
In the 1970s, when the historic old building needed repairs, the Women’s Division of Noblesville’s Chamber of Commerce took the lead in gathering donations for the project.
The community responded and the newly restored cabin was rededicated July 5, 1976, during the American Bicentennial celebration.
Twenty-some years later, the aging structure was again in need of major work. This time, however, efforts to raise funds for the cabin’s preservation failed, even though the city had managed to get it placed on the State Register of Historic Sites and Structures in 1990.
Noblesville’s historic old log cabin was demolished in 1997 — and the city lost another little piece of its soul.
– Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears on Wednesdays in The Times. Contact her at [email protected]