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Tower Grove House, the country home of 19th-century St. Louis merchant Henry Shaw, was built in 1849 on the grounds of his estate, which by 1857 he would open to the public as the Missouri Botanical Garden. The house itself, an Italianate villa with a marvelous spice garden and maze in the rear, has the type of lavish Victorian decor you might expect from such a wealthy, successful businessman. Though the house is one of the garden's most interesting features, most visitors pass it by. Also, be sure not to miss Shaw's mausoleum in the ivy-covered grounds in front of the house.
Exiting the main entrance of the Missouri Botanical Garden, the first exhibit of beauty that guests encounter is Spoehrer Plaza. This picturesque plaza features a fountain that is full of life and lined with colorful flowers. In the summer time, both children and adults enjoy walking and playing near the fountain in hopes of experiencing a cooling spray. As the gateway to the Missouri Botanical Garden, The Spoehrer Plaza creates the perfect prologue to all the wonders of the senses that visitors will behold while navigating through the many species of plants, garden varieties, and sensual pleasures. -Cathryn D. Blue
The beautifully restored Spink Pavilion was built by Henry Shaw, the founder of the Missouri Botanical Garden and original proprietor of the land. Initially, the pavilion served as the entrance to the garden, and many passers-by still mistake the pavilion for an entrance. Today, the Spink Pavilion is utilized for private banquets, functions, weddings, and other events. Visitors can rent the space for relatively reasonable rates for daytime or evening events on any day of the week. Besides being a gorgeous banquet facility, the bathrooms accessible from outside can be a life saver for garden visitors. -Cathryn D. Blue
The Swift Family Garden, near the entrance of the Missouri Botanical Garden, is full of color, life and inspiration. Creating a beautiful backdrop for the Linnean House, this magnificently symmetrical garden features a reflecting lily pool complete with lily pads that are often utilized by local amphibians. On either side of the pool, visitors can find varieties of colorful perennial flowers and arbor plants that add texture to the garden. -Cathryn D. Blue
Once beyond the main entrance to the Missouri Botanical Garden, one can choose to head right or left. Head left to catch a tour bus. Head right and find The Linnean House, the oldest functioning greenhouse west of the Mississippi River, complete with glass ceiling panels and large windows that open into the Swift Family Garden. The space is quite beautiful and meditative, but depending on how much traffic is at the garden on that day, one may not be able to spend too much time observing the plant life. The narrow walkway leads visitors from one side to the other side of the walkway, allowing them a gorgeous view and plenty of information about all the plants growing inside. -Cathryn D. Blue
Henry Shaw was the man who opened his garden and property to the world for exhibitions of horticultural beauty. In the front of the Tower Grove House (also known as the Home of Henry Shaw), lies Shaw's tomb, a sepulcher that is beautifully designed, made of white stone, and not too creepy. In fact, unless one is privy to its location, the tomb may be passed by, mistaken for an artistic sculpture or an empty monument. Certainly the Tomb of Henry Shaw is a conversation piece that opens visitors to the incredible history of the Tower Grove area, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the life of Shaw. -Cathryn D. Blue
A gift to the City of St. Louis from 19th-century merchant Henry Shaw (who was also responsible for the adjacent Missouri Botanical Garden), this park was laid out in the mid-19th century as a Victorian walking park. Much of the park is car-free, with winding roads for walking and biking. Unique flamboyant Victorian pavilions may be reserved for picnics notably the Turkish and Chinese pavilions and the lovely "Ruins" area is a restful spot with a pond and fountain. Other features include a beautifully restored Victorian bandstand, tennis courts and a small wading pool.
Compton Hill Reservoir Park was dedicated in 1867 and spans about 36 acres. The Naked Truth, a controversial statue, draws many onlookers. Local families enjoy outings here, as do many travelers seeking a historical interlude. With a rest area, a playground, tennis courts and a basketball court, the park offers many activity choices. Its location next to the reservoir adds to the ambiance of the park. Now run by the Parks Department, Compton Hill hosts many group events, but permits are required for these.