Noblesville's Fire Fighters spent Thursday afternoon battling a fire at Bolden's Dry Cleaners in downtown Noblesville. Photo provided by Charlie McMillan
Noblesville's Fire Fighters spent Thursday afternoon battling a fire at Bolden's Dry Cleaners in downtown Noblesville. Photo provided by Charlie McMillan
Bolden's Dry Cleaners owner Joan Bolden and her family stood outside the yellow barricade tape, watching in disbelief.

Watching as smoked rolled from the windows of the 25-year-old two-story brick dry-cleaners building that sits next to the railroad tracks by the foot bridge on Eighth Street in downtown Noblesville.

Watching as their family's 55-year-old three-generation business burned Thursday afternoon.

Noblesville Fire Department was dispatched at 3:31 p.m. to the dry-cleaners building, 151 N. Eighth St., for a possible business fire. At 3:35 p.m., the first arriving units on the scene reported "they had heavy smoke and flames coming from the east side of the business," Rick Russell, NFD's division chief, said. "Arriving units immediately marked this a working incident. At 3:36 p.m., it was benchmarked as having water on the fire and was marked under control at 3:48 p.m."

"It's heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking," said Susan (Bolden) Wood, 44, Noblesville, as she stood, staring at the smoldering building owned by her mom, Joan Bolden, 77, Cicero. "My brother, my sister, my mom all work here, and we all worked here as kids."

Wood said, "We're pretty sure it's going to be a complete loss."

Joan Bolden, and Susan Wood's sister, Beth (Bolden) Miller, 52, and brother, Craig Bolden, 49, both of Noblesville, who all work at the business, had just departed for the day when the fire occurred.

"I was the first family member to get here," said Wood, who learned about the fire when her husband, Terry Wood, called her. The firetrucks were arriving at the scene as he was driving by. "My husband was on his way home from work, and he said he saw smoke coming from the cleaners. I got here as soon as I could. The fire department was already here," she said.

"I just went home and got my mom because she didn't know yet. And we were all a little afraid to tell her on the phone," Wood said.

"We were afraid, because she had just had heart surgery not that long ago," said Kurt Bolden, 54, Noblesville, Joan Bolden's oldest son.

"It's everything. It's our life," Craig Bolden said, as he watched and waited with his family. "We're going to rebuild; I hope so. Unfortunately, I don't own it. Joan, my mother, is 78 years old, so hopefully my sister and I will rebuild it."

Bolden's Dry Cleaners was open for business at the time of the fire. And there were hundreds of customers' items ready to be cleaned or picked up.

Two employees, Ruthie Smith and Carmelita Hampton, and one customer, Josh Wheeler, were in the building when the fire started.

Wheeler, 33, Noblesville, said he had just entered the business to pick up his dry-cleaning items when he noticed the fire in the clothing carousel at the ceiling level. He first tried to use a fire extinguisher handed to him by an employee. But that wasn't possible. "There would have been no way I could have put out the fire; it was up on the ceiling," he said. "I called 911 and got the girls out of there. By the time I got them out - I made sure they were about to the train tracks - the glass (in the windows) was starting to break, so I moved my vehicle. And by that time, there were flames coming out the side, both sides. It went quick. There was nobody else, just us."

The employees and customer were medically examined on the scene by Noblesville Fire Department medical personnel. Hampton was transported to Riverview Health for further evaluation with non-life-threatening injuries.

While fire investigators are still determining the exact cause of the fire, damage to the building is estimated at $200,000.


Bolden's Dry Cleaners has a rich history in Noblesville.

In 1960, Edward Bolden and his wife, Bing, purchased the Noblesville Cleaners and Shirt Laundry, at the northwest corner of Eighth and Conner streets, from Orville Bays. In the early 1970s, Ed Bolden suffered a heart attack, so his son, Jere Bolden, now 78, and Jere's wife, Joan Bolden, came on board at the business, then took over after Ed Bolden's death.

In the 1973, when the Boldens moved to Noblesville with their four children, Kurt, Beth, Craig and Susan, the dry cleaners became a family affair, with all of the children working there when each was old enough.

That fall, the business's name changed to Bolden's Dry Cleaners. In 1980, Bolden's opened a second store in Harbourtown Center in Noblesville. In 1986, when Craig Bolden graduated from the International Fabric Institute, he came to work full time.

Joan Bolden, now the sole owner, built the current dry-cleaners building in 1990, after the former property was taken over by the County by eminent domain and razed during the Courthouse Expansion Project. The cleaners was located where the Hamilton County Government & Judicial Center now stands.