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The Garden began to take shape during Shaw’s lifetime.

Main Conservatory Greenhouse with Juno and visitors in the foreground. The view is looking to the north. 'Shaw's Garden'

Linnean House with people in foreground circa 1890.

Compton & Dry 1875 map of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The Missouri Botanical Garden and Tower Grove Park, topographical plan dated 1865.

During Henry Shaw’s lifetime, the garden began to take shape. Although Shaw owned the land all the way from Grand Avenue on the East to Kingshighway on the West (see map), the garden he planned was to be a relatively narrow strip running to the north from his country home. The land immediately to the south of this strip would become Tower Grove Park in 1868; Shaw’s other major gift to the city of St. Louis. This large Victorian Park stretches all the way from Grand Avenue to Kingshighway. It is noted for its many bandstands and structures, and for the statues that Shaw had placed in the park of Shakespeare and other people. The park, even during Shaw’s life, was a frequent site of musical performances, many of which were sponsored by Shaw himself.

Early maps show the rectangular layout of the Garden in the 1870s. At the extreme North end was the fruticetum, a place for the growing of shrubby plants. The parking lots are located on this area now. To the south of this area were two greenhouses. In 1868, Shaw built the Main Conservatory, also called the 1868 Greenhouse. The plan above shows the outline of this greenhouse, with indications of what plants were grown in each section. This greenhouse housed exotic plants. In the 1880s, Shaw added a smaller brick greenhouse to the north of the Main Conservatory. This structure, known as the Linnean House, designed by Shaw’s favorite architect George I. Barnett, housed palms, citrus and other tender plants.

The Main Conservatory was eventually torn down in 1916, but the Linnean House is still standing. Shaw named this smaller greenhouse the Linnean House in honor of Karl Linneaus, the father of the science of plant classification. To honor Lineaus, Shaw placed the scientist’s bust above the front door of this building, flanked by busts of two famous American scientists, Asa Gray and Thomas Nuttal. Today the Linnean House is the oldest continuously operating greenhouse west of the Mississippi and today it houses the MBG collection of camellias.


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