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The Rehabilitation of Ball Nurses' Sunken Garden and Convalescent Park


  • 1820

    The Federal Government sets aside a four square mile area, the "Donation Land," to establish a Capitol City for the State of Indiana—Indianapolis.
  • 1821

    800 to 1000 settlers claim land in the northwest quadrant of the "Donation Land," at the crossing of Crawfordsville Road and Fall Creek; several hundred become sick and 25 die from the plague and are buried in the "plague burying ground" on the premises.
  • 1855

    The former "plague burying ground" is purchased by the City Council to build the first City Hospital since the area was already so "unhealthy."
  • 1865

    Civil War ends.
  • 1874

    Fall Creek is re-routed to empty into the White River, one and a half miles north.
  • 1875

    The need for a medical school is recognized by Indiana University President Cyrus Nutt, who arranges for an affiliation with Indiana Medical College at Indianapolis whereby the medical school becomes the Medical Department of Indiana University.
  • 1887

    The first Nurses' Training School in the State of Indiana is established; nurses are housed in rented homes near the Hospital.
  • 1903

    The Trustees of Indiana University and President Dr. William Lowe Bryan decide to found the School of Medicine.
  • 1908

    The Indianapolis Medical College merges with Indiana University; Purdue University agrees to discontinue its medical education courses; Indianapolis becomes the primary training facility in the State for doctors and nurses.
  • 1911

    Dr. and Mrs. Robert W. Long donate $200,000 to the State of Indiana to build a Medical Building; Long Hospital is completed in 1913.
  • 1913

    The WPA builds the levees along the White River following the great flood of 1913; the University fills in the former flood plain of Fall Creek (1910-1948), using the area as a dump.
  • 1917

    The Medical School building constructed.
  • 1918

    World War I ends.
  • 1923

    Construction begins on a teaching hospital for children on the grounds of the Medical Center under the direction of Indiana University as a memorial to Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley, who died July 12, 1916.
  • 1925

    Indiana University receives a gift of $500,000 from George A. Ball and Frank C. Ball of Muncie, IN for the construction of a home for the nurses of Riley Hospital; the university hires Robert Frost Daggett to design the building to include offices, lecture rooms, laboratories, reception room, and rooms for 165 nurses; the Ball Brothers gift is the largest single gift contribution ever made to a state institution at the time.
  • 1927

    Coleman Hospital is constructed.
  • 1928

    Ball Nurses Home is completed and dedicated with 2,000 in attendance. Frank C. Ball states, "If this building serves to make happier the lives of the nurses it houses, if it makes their lives any more tender and beautiful, our purpose will have been accomplished."
  • 1929

    Indiana University and the Riley Memorial Association hire The Olmsted Brothers to design a master plan for the medical campus and to draw up plans for the grounds of the Nurses' Home.
  • October 28, 1929

    The stock market crashes.
  • February 15, 1930

    The master plan and plans for a Nurses' Sunken Garden and a Convalescent Park are developed and presented by Percival Gallagher, principal landscape architect for The Olmsted Brothers.

    James Carr, secretary of the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association, suggests to IU President Bryan that the gardens be named for the Ball Brothers in recognition of their generosity.
  • 1934

    The Rotary Convalescent Hospital is constructed.
  • 1934-1937

    Extensive campus improvements are made by the Public Work Administration (PWA) under the direction of Campus Engineer, Mr. Arthur utilizing The Olmsted Brother's plans including the filling and grading of the medical campus, and the planting of trees and shrubs.
  • 1937

    The Nurses' Alumni Association donates the sculpture "Eve" by Indianapolis sculpture, Robert W. Davidson (an alumnus of Indianapolis' Shortridge High School and the John Herron Art Institute) as the centerpiece of the Nurses' Sunken Garden's central fountain; the sculpture was created while the artist studied in Germany; cast in 1932 by Priessman, Bruer & Company in Munich, Bavaria; Eve is placed in the Indiana Building at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.
  • 1945

    World War II ends.
  • 1952

    The sitting of the Union Building immediately west of the Convalescent Park permanently alters the west terrace of the Nurses' Garden and the serpentine walks of the Convalescent Park.
  • 1957

    The fill dirt from the second addition to the Ball Nurses' Residence is placed on top of the west terrace of the Nurses' Garden and the north/south pedestrian circulation pattern between the Nurses' Residence and Rotary Hospital is altered to an east/west orientation for pedestrian circulation from the Union to destinations to the east.
  • 1980s-present

    Repair and Rehabilitation funds from the State of Indiana dwindle and the remaining funds are allocated to repairing roofs, mechanical systems and fire alarm systems to keep academic buildings open and operational. As a result, the Gardens fall into disrepair.
  • 1996

    The Ball Nurses' Sunken Garden and Convalescent Park is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1998

    Indiana University hires Rundell Ernstberger to create a master plan for the rehabilitation of the gardens.