In the late 1890s, the Board of Trustees was able for the first time to sit back and reflect on the future of the Garden. For guidance on the Garden’s direction as they entered the twentieth century, the Board hired Frederick Law Olmsted and his landscape architecture firm to report on the state of the Garden and to create a master plan for its future development. Olmsted was perhaps the most important park designer of the 19th century, having laid out the plans for New York’s Central Park, among others.
The Olmsted firm submitted a report to the Board of Trustees. The plan suggested keeping much of the garden as it was, but it included ambitious plans for the development of the lands to the west of the current garden. In the area to the West of Tower Grove House, bounded by Magnolia Ave on the South and Alfred on the West, the Olmsted’s suggested creating a collection of plants from the North American continent. This area of the Garden would become known as the North American Tract. In the North American Tract, there had been a small stream running through, which drained the water from Tower Grove Park. The plan called for the damming of this stream to create a pond around which the North American Tract. This pond still exists today as the southern half of the lake in the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Japanese Garden.
Just a few weeks after the Olmsted plan was submitted, the Trustees met and adopted it. In 1899, the staff of the Garden built two of the ponds that the Olmsteds had placed in the southwest section, as well as planting trees in the area. This construction would be the only portion of the Olmsted plan to be put into effect, in spite of the Board’s unanimous adoption of the plan. Even that addition required a court decision on the implementation of Shaw’s will.