It wasn’t that long ago that Hamilton County, Indiana, was mostly farmland. When I moved to central Indiana in the mid 1990s, if you drove north from Indianapolis into Hamilton County, city rapidly gave way to corn and soybean fields.
Today, it’s all developed. The Hamilton County towns of Carmel, Fishers, and Noblesville have annexed a great deal of the county and, one by one, farmers have sold their land to developers. Office buildings line the major roads now. Everywhere else you’ll find homes, ranging from inexpensive vinyl-village subdivisions, to gated communities of stone and brick homes, to sprawling estates. You’ll also find the suburban shopping centers that follow residential development.
Jesse and Beulah Cox foresaw this all happening. They bought the farm of original Hamilton County settler John Williams in 1958, and by 1974 they had built their dream home on the property. In 1999, they donated their property to the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department to preserve their land, to “create an oasis in a sea of homes,” Jesse said. Their farm, now known as Coxhall Gardens, is a sprawling park. It’s also one of my frequent photographic destinations.
Williams began farming this land in 1855, and built this house on it in 1865.
As you drive by, this house is largely hidden by a row of trees. When the Coxes bought the property, they lived in the Williams house at first.
The Williams’ barn still stands near the house.
Looming behind the barn is the mansion the Coxes built in 1974. (But first, they built and lived in a single-story ranch in what looks like limestone. It still stands, but I’ve never photographed it.)
I was surprised to learn that this large, solid home was built so recently. It looks like something from a hundred years before.
I especially enjoy the mansion during the warm months, because it is lushly landscaped.
I don’t know the significance of this statue, but I like it and have photographed it a number of times.
I’m partial to this photo of my wife on the mansion’s steps.
Not far from the mansion is the ampitheater. The rotunda-like stage is large enough only for a small performance, such as a musical quartet.
Many times I’ve found people here making wedding photographs. This would be a lovely setting for an outdoor wedding.
This monument to the Coxes, featuring their quote about the “sea of homes,” stands at the back of the ampitheater.
When you walk behind the ampitheater, you find yourself on a bridge over a large pond. From there, you can easily see the park’s two large clocks.
Here’s one of the clocks from a little closer. I don’t know what their significance is, but they are a defining feature in the park. Notice the bells below the clock. I’ve never heard them ring.
This is the bridge behind the ampitheater.
Finally, there’s a little “wild west” village in a back corner of Coxhall Gardens, which I imagine might be fun for children.
You’ll find the entrance to Coxhall Gardens on Towne Road, just north of 116th Street, in Carmel, Indiana.
Reviews of the cameras used in this photo essay: Rollei 35B, Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Pentax K10D.
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