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Ball Gardens

The Campus : Ball Gardens

Ball Gardens is changing. See The Rehabilitation of Ball Nurses' Sunken Garden and Convalescent Park.

Ball Gardens - University Library Special Collections #UA24-003530 Ball Gardens, looking south towards Ball Residence Hall

One of IUPUI's long-lost treasures, Ball Gardens provided an oasis of beauty in the Michigan Street campus on the north side of Ball Residence Hall. The gardens, conceived in 1929 by Massachusetts landscape artists the Olmsted Brothers, began life as the Nurses Sunken Garden and Convalescent Park and was designed as a "bridge" between the nurses' residence and Rotary Convalescent Hospital, now the Rotary Building.

The gardens were part of a project to provide housing for students in the IU School of Nursing. Ball Residence Hall was named for former IU Trustee George A. Ball, one of the brothers whose family fortune — made in the fruit jar manufacturing industry — helped shape Muncie, Indiana.

The Eve Statue, clad in a towel - University Library Special Collections #UA24-004859 The Eve statue, clad in a towel.

Support Ball Gardens Work began in 1930, with the bulk of the grading and beautification of the area done from 1934-37. In 1937, a signature piece of public art became an integral part of the pastoral setting when the Nurses' Alumnae Association donated "Eve," created by Indianapolis sculptor Robert Davidson. Eve made her debut in the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, then became the centerpiece of Ball Gardens.

The gardens quickly became a favorite gathering spot for students to study, relax and even indulge in traditional moments both official (the nurses' annual "capping" ceremony) and social (Eve's annual "decoration" with women's "unmentionables").

Nursing Pinning in Ball Gardens - University Library Special Collections #UA24-004848 Nursing Pinning Ceremony, 1946

Through the intervening decades, however, the expansion of Ball Hall, changing traffic patterns and financial shortfalls caused Ball Gardens to shrink and lose its luster. Attempts to find funding for the restoration of Ball Gardens to its original glory are ongoing; plans not only envision a recreation of the creators' original plans, but an expansion that would give Ball Gardens a 21st century twist.

Ball Gardens' visionary creators, John Charles Olmsted and step-brother Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., were among America's most influential landscape architects. They played a key role in creating the National Park Service and list among their most notable commissions such projects as the U.S. Capitol and the White House grounds, New York City's Central Park, Atlanta's Piedmont Park, and such parks as Great Smoky Mountains, Acadia National and Yosemite Valley.