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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 by extensive European travel, a wide circle of professional botanist friends, 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 symmetrical plan was anchored in the center 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 spanning seventy-five acres) which opened in 1859.

Barnett designed the Garden's Museum Building (1859), a red brick Renaissance Revival block trimmed with limestone, and the Linnaean House (1882), a brick and glass greenhouse modeled on the Orangerie at Kew Gardens in London. That same year Barnett designed Shaw's mausoleum, set on the grounds with a sarcophagus surmounted by 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 here. Mauran, Russell, and Garden enlarged the relocated red brick Renaissance Revival town house in 1908.

The Botanical Garden underwent major changes in 1904 and 1917 when new landscaping plans commissioned by the Board of Trustees called for a redirection in its physical orientation and the relocation and replanting of several sections. More recent additions include the Climatron (1960, Murphy and Mackey), the world's first geodesic dome to be enclosed in rigid Plexiglas panels. Figural sculptures of dancers and angels playing musical instruments by Carl Milles were added to the reflecting pool that forms part of the Climatron's formal landscaped approach, which is often filled with the garden's world-class collection of water lilies.

Other additions include the modern concrete and glass John S. Lehmann Building (1973) by Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, and that firm's barrel-vaulted Ridgeway Education and Visitor's Center (1981), which is based on British landscape gardener Joseph Paxton's plan for the 1851 Great Exhibition building in Hyde Park, London (which Shaw visited). The Seiwa-En Japanese Garden (1977), carved from a marsh by garden designer Loichi Kawana with Karl Pettit of Mackey and Associates, is a paradise within the Botanical 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
  • 1981

    Ridgeway Education and Visitor's Center
  • 1977

    Seiwa-En Japanese Garden
  • 1991

    Library

What's Nearby

Citation

Carol Grove and Carolyn Toft, "Missouri Botanical Garden", [, 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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