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Ball Gardens add historic flavor to IUPUI's welcoming campus

June 7, 2016

The fountain and Ball Gardens restore luster to Ball Residence Hall.

The restoration project returns luster to Ball Residence Hall and adds to IUPUI's welcoming initiative.

For decades, Ball Nurses Sunken Garden was a setting for hijinks and healing, a place to celebrate friendships and graduations. After falling into disrepair, the garden on the campus of IUPUI has been restored and on June 21 will be rededicated.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie, IUPUI Chancellor Nasser Paydar and School of Nursing Dean Robin Newhouse will lead the ceremony.

The rededication, which is open to the public, will take place at Ball Residence Hall. A reception will be held at 2 p.m., with the rededication program beginning at 3 p.m.

Conceived in 1929, the garden was designed by Olmsted Brothers, the firm founded by the father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted. The garden was named in recognition of a generous gift of $500,000 from brothers George and Frank Ball of Muncie, for the construction of a home for the nurses of Riley Hospital.

The garden is believed to be the only remaining Olmsted Brothers planned garden designed for therapeutic and healing purposes in an urban medical campus setting in the U.S. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

Restoration of the garden included reconstruction of brick walks, fountain basin, fountain lighting and landscaping.

Ball Sunken Garden consists of a square central section centered on a fountain, with two symmetrical sections on either side. Brick walks line the perimeters and lead to the fountain. The restoration already is drawing praise.

"The fact that Ball Garden has blossomed so beautifully following its restoration stands as a symbol of the spirit and strength of the IUPUI community,” said Chancellor Paydar. "Our alumni and friends worked tirelessly to see this garden restored, and we are grateful to them for their tenacity and heart.”

"Its purpose was to serve as a respite for the hardworking nurses at Riley Hospital for Children and to enhance the recovery of convalescing pediatric patients," said Audrey Corne, who, with members of the IU School of Nursing Class of 1959 and others, helped bring the garden back to life.

"The landscape's therapeutic and healing properties were palpable and real," Corne said.

The Sunken Garden became a milestone setting for IU School of Nursing ceremonies, including graduation, capping, pinning and Senior Day activities.

Eve is back in her rightful place.

The sculpture Eve, nicknamed "Flo" by scores of nursing students through the decades, has been returned to her rightful home in the heart of the gardens, with the new feature of the pergola built along the northern side of Ball Gardens.

And a sculpture of the biblical Eve in the garden's fountain, commissioned by the IU Alumni Nurses Association in 1931, was often at the center of those activities.

Nicknamed "Flo" -- for Florence Nightingale -- by nursing students, Eve was sculpted by Robert Davidson, who had studied sculpture at the John Herron Institute, now the Herron School of Art and Design.

Nursing graduating classes posed for a photo with Eve, and it became a tradition to dress the sculpture in a nurse's pink training uniform at graduation time.

The statue in the garden's fountain was the fun target for student nurses to dress when they had to let off some steam, Corne said.

Eve was returned to her rightful spot in the garden's fountain as part of the restoration.

The gardens provide scenic beauty in the western side of campus.

The gardens and fountain unify Ball Residence Hall to the south, Eskenazi Hospital to the west, the Rotary Building to the north, and the Simon Family Tower and Riley Outpatient Center to the east. | ALL PHOTOS BY LIZ KAYE / IU COMMUNICATIONS

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