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Missouri Botanical Garden

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Shaw's Garden
1859 opened. 4344 Shaw Blvd.
  • Tower Grove
  • Museum Building
  • Linnean House
  • Shaw mausoleum
  • Climatron
  • Carl Milles sculptures
  • Ridgway Center

Blessed with extensive European travel, a wide circle of botanical acquaintances, a vast personal library on landscape gardening, and a singleness of purpose supported by sufficient retirement income, English-born Henry Shaw set out to create a country estate in the Midwest prairie. His brick residence (1849), an Italianate villa, named Tower Grove for the stand of native sassafras and oak on the site, was designed by George I. Barnett. Its asymmetrical plan was anchored by a soaring tower with a balconette where Shaw could view his gardens below. After planting his grounds, and inspired by visits to England, Shaw finalized a plan for a public botanical garden (today seventy-nine acres) which opened in 1859.

The Garden’s Barnett-designed Museum Building (1859), with an interior modeled after that at Kew Gardens, London, is a Renaissance Revival red brick block trimmed with limestone. Its deeply recessed and pedimented entrance is framed by limestone pilasters and Doric columns that support a distinctive arch of pointed voussoirs. A 2018 renovation restored its ceiling mural (Leon Pomarede) depicting plants of the world and linked an exhibition space (Christner), a glass and limestone box on the east side. Built to overwinter exotic plants, the rectangular red brick Linnaean House (1882) has tall segmental arched windows that repeat across the entire south facade. Multiple courses of varied brickwork ornament the roofline and the pedimented entrance. Quoins and pilasters transition into miniature towers: those on the corners support flower-filled urns in summer and those bracketing the entrance support busts of botanists Thomas Nuttall, Asa Gray, and the buildings namesake, Carl Linnaeus. Barnett designed Shaw's mausoleum (1882) on the grounds with a sarcophagus with a marble likeness of Shaw sculpted by Ferdinand von Mueller of Munich. Shaw's will stipulated that after his death his Barnett-designed house (1851) in downtown St. Louis be dismantled and reconstructed in the Garden. Mauran, Russell and Garden enlarged the relocated Renaissance Revival red brick townhouse in 1908.

Also on the grounds are the modern concrete and glass John S. Lehmann Building which houses research (1973, Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum). The same firm's iconic barrel-vaulted Ridgeway Education and Visitor's Center (1981) based on British landscape gardener Joseph Paxton's plan for the 1851 Great Exhibition building in Hyde Park, London, which Shaw visited, has been replaced by the Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center (2022, Ayers Saint Gross; Michael Vergason Landscape Architects). A series of one-story spaces constructed of stone, zinc and glass, it is anchored by a double-height glass lantern lined with a metal scrim with a pattern that evokes a forest canopy.

Other recent additions include the Climatron (1960, Murphy and Mackey), the world's first geodesic dome to be enclosed in rigid Plexiglas panels. Figural sculptures by Carl Milles of dancing figures and angels playing musical instruments were added to the reflecting pool that forms part of the formal landscaped approach to the Climatron and which is often filled with the garden's world-class collection of water lilies.

The Seiwa-En Japanese Garden (1977) carved from a marsh by garden designer Koichi Kawana with Karl Pettit of Mackey and Associates is a paradise within the Garden. To its north are extensive grounds developed in the 1990s to demonstrate the many approaches to home gardening. This sprawling section is anchored by a homelike red brick building (1991) with a small library and meeting space designed by Sauer and Associates.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Carol Grove and Carolyn Toft
Coordinator: 
Osmund Overby, Carol Grove, and Cole Woodcox
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Data

Timeline

  • 1859

    Museum Building
  • 1882

    Shaw Mausoleum
  • 1904

    Landscaping
  • 1908

    Shaw townhouse relocated and enlarged
  • 1917

    Landscaping
  • 1960

    Climatron and approach
  • 1973

    John S. Lehmann Building
  • 1977

    Seiwa-En Japanese Garden
  • 1981

    Ridgeway Education and Visitor's Center
  • 1991

    Library
  • 2018

    Museum Building renovated
  • 2022

    Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center

What's Nearby

Citation

Carol Grove and Carolyn Toft, "Missouri Botanical Garden", [St. Louis, Missouri], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/MO-01-510-0008.

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