Ball Nurses’ Sunken Garden and Convalescent Park

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Indianapolis, IN
United States
Ball Nurses’ Sunken Garden and Convalescent Park

Located on the western edge of the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), this therapeutic greenspace continues to fulfill its original role as a place of respite for Riley Hospital nurses, patients, and their families. The garden and park were designed as components of a campus master plan prepared by Percival Gallagher, a principal landscape architect of the Olmsted Brothers. The master plan was completed in 1930 and construction of the Sunken Garden and Convalescent Park was completed in 1937.

Gallagher’s design divided the site into three major areas: the formal Nurses' Residence Lawn and Sunken Garden, the informal pastoral Convalescent Park, and the elliptical turf panel or forecourt for the Rotary Convalescent Hospital. The Sunken Garden was designed in a Neoclassical geometric style, creating an outdoor room with three compartments. It comprised a central square garden featuring a circular pool and statue and four planted quadrants, flanked on the east and west by two quadrangular turf panels outlined with strolling paths. The Convalescent Park included strolling paths in a serpentine pattern which led pedestrians from the Nurses' Residence to the Rotary Hospital's outdoor forecourt. An additional building was later added along the western edge of the site and additions were made to the Ball Nurses’ Residence. These changes resulted in the removal of the Sunken Garden’s west turf panel, and modified pedestrian circulation from north and south to east and west.

In 2016 restoration work was completed by local landscape architecture firm Rundell Ernstberger Associates, LLC, to more closely reflect the site’s original design. Ball Nurses’ Sunken Garden and Convalescent Park is the only extant example of an Olmsted Brothers landscape designed for therapeutic and healing purposes in an urban medical campus setting. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.