State of the City to Include Sullivan Brothers Plaza Dedication

Mayor Quentin Hart will deliver this year’s State of the City address on Thursday, November 9, 2023 at 4:00 p.m. in the lobby of the Waterloo Convention Center, located at 200 West 4th Street, Waterloo, Iowa. Immediately following the presentation, guests will be invited outside to the adjacent plaza where the Sullivan Brothers Memorial will be dedicated.

The event will include a Presentation of Colors courtesy of the Waterloo West High School JROTC, Pledge of Allegiance and remarks from Yolando Loveless/Black Hawk County Veterans Affairs Director, remarks from Kelly Sullivan/Granddaughter of the Sullivan Brothers and military advocate, Dean Proctor/Memorial Plaza Designer and ribbon cutting.

Formerly named the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center, the facility underwent an extensive interior and exterior remodel and a brand refresh. With the name changing to the more region-centric Waterloo Convention Center, the City and Convention Center wanted an appropriate and more visible way to honor the sacrifice of the Five Sullivan Brothers, Waterloo natives, who lost their lives at sea together in World War II.

It was decided that the Convention Center would get a new more functional outdoor plaza to facilitate outdoor gatherings and events, part of which would be dedicated to a unique new space called the Sullivan Brothers Memorial. This space would be designed to allow veterans, visitors, and the community to experience the story in new ways, gather, to reflect on history, and share in Waterloo’s ongoing spirit of community.

The memorial portion of the plaza space is designed to follow the shape of a ship deck. A gangplank welcomes and leads visitors to the center of the ship, inviting them to experience the exhibit up close and personal in a variety of ways. Designed for flexibility, it offers a central “sacred space” with curved seating, while remaining open to the public.

The memorial also includes other references to military and ship themes including ship moorings military ship-like construction with rivets, and surrounding “waves” of tall grasses and other vegetation. Colors selected for use are reminiscent of shades of battleship gray, with golden-bronze accent components. The four two-sided exhibits themselves offer a historic storytelling side and modern-day reflection side inspiring visitor interaction.

The theme of “Together” is set in stone in this central space, as well as projected in golden light upon the wall behind the memorial. The concept was inspired by a famous quote from eldest brother George Sullivan, who when asked why all five brothers wished to serve on one ship together or not at all, said simply “We stick together.” That brotherhood and spirit of coming together, being better together through good times and through hard times sets the stage for a place veterans and community can gather to share experiences old and new in the spirit of camaraderie.

Sullivan Brothers History
In World War II, five brothers from one family in Waterloo, Iowa volunteered to serve in the United States Navy: George, Francis “Frank”, Joseph “Joe”, Madison “Matt” and Albert “Al” Sullivan. Determined to serve together on one ship, these five Sullivan brothers ultimately perished together along with nearly 700 shipmates when their ship the USS Juneau (CL-52) was torpedoed and lost at sea. It was the largest loss by a single family in U.S. conflict history, and changed the military’s policy to prohibit family members serving together. Remarkably, the brothers’ surviving parents Thomas and Alleta Sullivan and sister Genevieve afterwards continued to serve the war effort by touring the country, inspiring crowds and raising war bonds—a story of remarkable honor, sacrifice and rising to the challenge that resonates yet today.

Descendants of the brothers continue in service of the Waterloo community. The words of Kelly Sullivan, granddaughter of the youngest Sullivan brother, that helped in particular to inspire and set the tone for the reflective, future-looking side of the exhibit. At the project launch she shared with the design team her overarching goal for the memorial—that ultimately this piece “will inspire others to give back to their community.”

StonePLAZA OWNER: City of Waterloo
DATES: Concepting/design/installation 2020-2023
PROJECT STEERING COMMITTEE: Kelly Sullivan, Mayor Quentin Hart, John Sullivan, John Rooff, Wendy Bowman
SITE CONSTRUCTION: Vieth Construction Corporation
PHOTOGRAPHY: Historic imagery sources Courtesy of: Grout Museum,
Contemporary Photography courtesy of:  Larry Klodt Photography; Diane Ebert/Candid Photography; Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity; City of Waterloo; Waterloo Youth Art Team
CONTEXT, CONCURRENT, AND RELATED PROJECTS: This project was conceived in conjunction with the Waterloo Convention Center remodel and Waterloo Convention Center Plaza.

The Sullivan Brothers Memorial is part of the Veterans Way walk, which runs through significant parts of the City including:

  • Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum
  • Statue Park
  • Prairie Pathways Plaza
  • Waterloo Convention Center Sullivan Brothers Memorial
  • Veteran’s Memorial Hall. River Falls Plaza
  • Lighted bridge and falls
  • Vietnam Memorial Monument
  • Sullivan Memorial Park

Sullivan Brothers RenderingMEMORIAL DIMENSIONS:
Memorial site dimensions: Length 95’  Width 10 - 20’
Exhibit dimensions:  Height: 10’ - 12’  Base: 3’ x 6’

Permanent seating: 24
Additional standing and temporary seating: ~ 70

Site: Concrete, granite pavers with metal lettering, cast concrete specialty pavers, landscaped beds

Exhibits: Fabricated and painted aluminum cores. Etched and filled stainless steel art and story panels. Polished stainless steel reflective panels. Stainless steel titanium-coated word banners. Concrete and aluminum pedestals with integrated lighting.

Memorial plazaCOMPONENTS:
Exhibits: Four (4) two-sided exhibits (eight panels total) plus introduction plaque
Benches: 12
Special pavers dedicated to crew members lost: Nearly 700 crew members represented by 69 pavers
Special pavers representing survivors: 10 survivors represented by 1 paver.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on the Design of the Memorial and its exhibits, please contact the storytelling, urban, and graphic design team of Eye Level Studio:

Susan Hansen, Principal Marketing Communication, Eye Level Studio: 608-852-4949

 Dean Proctor, AIA-Principal Designer, Eye Level Studio: 608-255-3988