While Henry Shaw was traveling in Europe in the late 1840s, his agents were busily at work in St. Louis. In 1849, Shaw had hired a prominent architect named George I. Barnett to design his country home. This two story Italian style villa was built on Shaw’s property South-west of St. Louis. At the time, tall grass covered this prairie with only a few trees scattered growing mainly along streambeds. One grove of sassafras trees, however, did stand on a low hill. Just to the south of these trees, Shaw built his country home. For many years anyone approaching this hill could see the tower of the house with the grove of trees beside it. The house, therefore, came to be known as Tower Grove House. Today, Tower Grove House has provided the name for many things in the neighborhood. Tower Grove Park lies just to the South of the Botanical Garden, and Tower Grove Avenue runs along its eastern border. There is also a Tower Grove Neighborhood, a Tower Grove Church, and so forth.
Upon his return from England in 1851, Shaw began planning his garden and planting trees on his erstwhile treeless estate. During his lifetime, he planted thousands of trees and shrubs on the eighty-acre tract around this country home.