The following information has been gathered from Hilltop files and Barbara Shalucha’s writing. While the history is not complete, it will give you a sense of the incredible programs that have taken place at Hilltop and the impact that Hilltop has had on the Bloomington community.
In the spring of 1948, Hilltop began its first season on a one acre alfalfa field belonging to the Indiana University Department of Botany which was re-designated as space for community gardening programs. Barbara Shalucha, a professor in the Indiana University Department of Botany, was Hilltop’s first director. Before coming to Bloomington, Shalucha had worked with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s children’s gardening programs and her enthusiasm for community gardening programs led to the establishment of Hilltop. Shalucha was associated with Hilltop throughout her career at Indiana University, serving as director until her retirement in 1986, as well as teaching courses in the Department of Botany.
Hilltop’s youth gardening programs started in 1948 with only fourteen children enrolled, but quickly grew in popularity. By 1957, 170 children were participating in Hilltop’s summer gardening programs. When Hilltop celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998, thousands of Bloomington’s children has learned about gardening through Hilltop’s youth gardening programs. Over the years, Shalucha worked with many people in both Bloomington and the Indiana University community, including chancellor Herman B Wells to gain support for Hilltop’s programs.
In her 1987 book, The Garden Named Hilltop, Barbara Shalucha wrote, “Men and women of vision founded the community’s children’s garden in 1948. It was in 1947 that a remarkable group of citizens listened and heard what a Garden could be and gave support for its realization: H.H. Binford, then Superintendent of the Monroe County Schools, Jerry T. Femal, the first Directors of the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation, Ralph E. Cleland, Chairman of the Botany Department, Garrett Eppley, Chairman of the new Department of Parks and Recreation in the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, Chancellor Herman B Wells, then the President of Indiana University, and the women of the Bloomington Garden Club, particularly supportive was Arline Ferguson, Minnete Deiss, and Rhonda Zeller. “