Historic site of Ball Gardens reclaiming earlier luster with restoration
January 26, 2016
A rendering of one of IUPUI's most renowned sites, Ball Gardens, which is being restored this semester.
A familiar figure is about to reappear on the west end of the IUPUI campus this spring: Flo is returning to Ball Gardens Sunken Garden and Convalescent Park. The pastoral area just north of Ball Residence Hall is being restored by work crews this semester.
Short for Florence Nightingale, "Flo" is the nickname that hundreds of School of Nursing students applied to the sculpture officially known as "Eve." Robert Davidson, a student at the John Herron School of Art (now the Herron School of Art and Design), created Eve in 1931.
Eve debuted at the Chicago World’s Fair and appeared at other sites in Chicago before being brought to the campus in 1934. She took her place in the midst of the fountain in the heart of the park, located behind Ball Residence Hall.
History of the park
Ball Gardens was originally conceived in 1929, when Indiana University and the Riley Memorial Association hired the Olmsted Brothers, a firm founded by Frederick Law Olmsted, to design a master plan. Olmsted was a renowned landscape architect who designed New York City’s Central Park.
A few years earlier, brothers George and Frank Ball of Muncie, Ind., had gifted $500,000 to IU for the construction of a home for the nurses of Riley Hospital. The gardens were subsequently named for the Ball brothers in recognition of their generosity.
The entire Ball Gardens site includes three gardens: the Ball Nurses’ Sunken Garden, the Convalescent Park and the Rotary Convalescent Hospital Forecourt. Unfortunately, only parts of the project were ever finished. Regardless, the area became a favorite for Indiana University student nurses.
The nurses' pinning ceremonies and formal graduations took place there until the 1960s, but it was the greenery, the waters of the fountain, and the statue of Eve that made the garden a respite from the students' demanding, hectic lives.
After several decades of hosting School of Nursing events and activities, Ball Gardens was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. As time passed, however, the need for renovation became apparent.
The University Architect’s Office is overseeing the restoration effort, which is expected to be completed by May 1.
The reconstruction is currently focused on the Ball Nurses’ Sunken Garden portion. The scope for that project includes the removal of existing failed brick walks, the fountain basin, landscaping and poor soils; the reinstallation and compaction of sound subgrade fill and topsoils; the reconstruction of the brick walks, fountain basin, fountain lighting and landscaping; and the reintroduction of Eve to the center of the fountain. All plans have been developed by Rundell Ernstberger and Associates based on historic research.
While Ball Residence Hall sat just south of Ball Gardens, the Rotary Building sat to the north of the pastoral area.
The first pinning ceremony.
In the 1960s, Senior Day celebrations were a popular event in Ball Gardens.
Two nurses enjoyed a summer day near "Flo" in the 1970s.
Flowers and shrubs added life and color to Ball Gardens through the years.
Restoration is currently underway. | PHOTO COURTESY CAMPUS FACILITIES
HISTORIC PHOTOS COURTESY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AND ARCHIVES