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Tower Grove Park was founded in 1868 by Henry Shaw, a retired merchant, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Shaw had previously established the Missouri Botanical Garden on land that was part of his country estate, located to the west of St. Louis. To expand upon this plan, he set aside another tract of land as green space outside the city for the public to enjoy, and Tower Grove Park emerged from this vision. The park is a National Historic Landmark, one of only eight parks in the U.S. to have received this special designation.

Tower Grove Park entrance

Flower, Plant, Sky, Botany

Tower Grove Park - West Gate entrance, circa 1900

Plant, Sky, Tree, Landscape

Tulips at Tower Grove Park, during the 150th anniversary celebration at the park in March 2022

Flower, Plant, Sky, Petal

Tower Grove Park fountain

Water, Plant, Daytime, World

The Chinese Pavilion at Tower Grove Park, one of eleven Victorian pavilions on site

Plant, Tree, Shade, Building

an architectural rendering of a renovated bridge over the lily ponds, part of the new master plan for the park

Plant, Water, Green, Tree

Pavilion at Tower Grove Park

Plant, Tree, Shade, Botany

Historic Horse Stables next to the park foreman's residence

Sky, Plant, Building, Fence

Established in 1868 and opened in 1872, Tower Grove Park is now an accredited arboretum containing a notable collection of trees and plants, in addition to several Victorian-era structures. Its founder, Henry Shaw, believed in the importance of establishing parks in or near cities for the benefit and wellbeing of the public. This late-nineteenth viewpoint was held by several other philanthropists at the time.

In Shaw's words, parks had immeasurable value, "not only as ornaments to a great city, but as conducive to the health and happiness of its inhabitants and to the advancement of refinement and culture." Because Shaw was interested in European culture, travel, and classics, much of the architecture throughout the park reflects this emphasis.

Tower Grove Park is a National Historic Landmark, one of only eight parks in the U.S. to receive this designation. Nearly 300 acres, the landscape contains eleven Victorian pavilions that serve as picnic sites, as well as several waterlily ponds, a fountain with faux-ruins, formal gardens featuring tulips and other flowers, a park foreman's house, and historic horse stables. Along with intersecting footpaths, there is a carriage trail around the perimeter.

In 2017, a master plan was approved to upgrade the park for the 21st century, while preserving its historic elements. The plan put an emphasis on accessibility, such as building a new bridge over the waterlily ponds, restoring courts for basketball (a Victorian-era sport), and adding two new playgrounds. There is also an expanded space for the open-air Saturday morning Farmers' Market, which is held near the Shakespeare statue.

The 2017 master plan also included the restoration of a stream that once ran through the site. Evidence of the stream's existence were visible via the stone bridges traversing dry land. Although two other streams remained extant at the park, one stream was buried underground a century ago due to sanitation reasons. In recent years, park staff worked alongside the indigenous people of Osage Nation to restore this stream.

The stream restoration project also entails the cultivation of local plants significant to the Osage people, particularly plants that have traditionally provided food and medicine. The Osage people lived on this land for over a thousand years until the arrival of European settlers in 1763; they were forced to cede the land to the U.S. government by treaty in 1808. With the completion of the stream restoration project in spring 2022, the Park seeks to honor the Osage people and include them in future efforts to revitalize the landscape.

In 2022, Tower Grove Park celebrated its sesquicentennial (or 150th Anniversary) with a year-long celebration of special events. The calendar of events included "Love in the Park," held on site at the Roman Pavilion in June. Couples who had previously been engaged or married at the park were invited to renew their vows, and enjoy another 'first dance' and flower toss together.

Throughout the year, the Park also hosts outdoor movie screenings, and it offers public tours of historic structures on site. In addition to being a popular destination for marriage proposals and weddings, Tower Grove Park is enjoyed throughout the seasons by photographers, cyclists, walkers, joggers, birders, and people of all ages.

History, Tower Grove Park. Accessed November 7th, 2022.

Tower Grove Park Turns 150 Years Old, Gazelle Magazine. March 24th, 2022. Accessed November 7th, 2022.

1883 MacAdam Report, Tower Grove Park. Accessed November 7th, 2022.

Master Plan Highlights, Tower Grove Park. Accessed November 7th, 2022.

Projects, Tower Grove Park. Accessed November 8th, 2022.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Tower Grove Park

Tower Grove Park

Kari R. Frey, Gazelle Magazine

Great Runs

Tower Grove Park

Tower Grove Park master plan for renovation

Tower Grove Park

Tower Grove Park