When Henry Shaw needed a building to house his library and herbarium, he commissioned George I. Barnett to design it. Shaw asked Barnett to base the design on a building at Kew Gardens. The red brick building that Barnett designed also housed Shaw’s museum of natural history, and came to be called the Museum Building. In side, the ceiling was painted with a mural of natural science and the names of famous scientists.
Along with Tower Grove House and the Administration Building (which had originally been Shaw’s city home), the Museum Building made up the main "campus" of the botanical Garden. Over the years, the building has served many additional purposes. For a time there was a public restaurant located in the building, and later it housed the Ewan collection of books and papers on subject of botany and the history of science.