It always fascinates me how one column often leads to another on a completely different subject. That happened again recently when I was doing research on Smith’s Jewelers.
While reading an article on the jewelry store’s 1959 move from Logan Street to its current location on North Ninth Street, my gaze strayed across the page to a story on the opening of the Hillside Beach Club.
Whoa. Now, there’s a blast from the past.
I remember Hillside, although probably not as well as some people. I only visited once in the 1960s when my mother took a group of my friends and me there to celebrate my birthday.
For those of you who weren’t around then, Hillside Beach Club was a recreation area located on State Road 38, just east of State Road 31. (Wild Feather Farm occupies that land today.)
The June 5, 1959 Noblesville Daily Ledger article describes the grand opening of “Hamilton County’s newest and perhaps finest privately-owned ‘summer resort.’”
The original owners, James “Jim” Nolton and his wife, Leta, had been running Jim and Leta’s Cafe (or Cafeteria — it appears both ways) across the street from Firestone since 1953, but had long dreamed of creating a resort on their wooded property. They worked for several years, mainly on weekends when their restaurant was closed, to make that dream a reality.
When Hillside finally opened Memorial Day, 1959, it consisted of a 1 1/4- acre lake, a man-made beach, 13 acres of picnicking and parking facilities, and nine acres devoted to “miscellaneous recreation.” That “miscellaneous recreation” originally consisted of badminton, volleyball and basketball courts, but there were tentative plans to add a baseball diamond and if interest warranted, an ice skating arena.
According to the Ledger, 1,600 tons of sand had been trucked in from Carmel to create the beach and to cover the bottom of “Lake Nolton.” The lake itself was filled with spring water pumped from wells. In depth, it ranged from a few inches in the children’s area to 18 feet at the 20-foot diving platform.
Nearby was a snack bar with a dance patio where teens could dance in their bare feet to music piped in over the sound system and juke box. Another building housed a bathhouse, showers, a check room and restrooms.
In later years, Buckeye Campground was added to Hillside’s amenities.
The Noltons sold Hillside to a man from Indianapolis in 1972, and the new managers announced at that time that plans were in the works for the addition of a fishing lake, tennis courts and riding stables. A nursery service for children was also to be offered.
I found it interesting that a fishing lake was being constructed because that wasn’t the first commercial fish pond on the property.
As early as 1952, Jim Nolton had operated “Hillside Lake” (formerly the Covode gravel pit) there. The lake was stocked with catfish, bass and bluegills. For $1 you could fish for 4 hours, or until you caught two catfish. Prizes were awarded for the largest catfish caught each Saturday and Sunday.
The Hillside Beach Club closed for good sometime in the 1980s, but neither Nancy Massey of the Noblesville library’s Indiana Room, nor I were able to find an exact date.
I do know, however, that when Sunshine Promotions, Inc. was hunting a location for a proposed “open-air summer theater” in 1986, the Hillside property was their first choice. Local residents objected, however, which forced Sunshine to consider other sites.
(Sunshine eventually opened Deer Creek Music Center, known today as Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center, southeast of Noblesville in 1989.)
Thanks to Nancy Massey for additional research.

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Wednesday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com