South city’s newest National Register of Historic Places historic district is the Shaw’s Garden Historic District in Southwest Garden, listed by the National Park Service on April 16. The listing follows the listing of the adjacent Reber Place Historic District on the west side of Kingshighway, and makes a large part of Southwest Garden eligible for historic rehabilitation tax credits. even before listing was completed, developers already starting trying to purchase buildings in the districts for tax credit projects!
The Southwest Garden Neighborhood Association, with Community Development Block Grant funding allocated by Alderman Steve Conway (D-8th), hired Preservation Research Office to prepare both nominations. PRO Director Michael R. Allen and Architectural Historian Lynn Josse prepared the Shaw’s Garden Historic District nomination, which encompasses 18 city blocks and 403 contributing primary buildings.
View Shaw’s Garden Historic District in a larger map
The Shaw’s Garden Historic District represents the fulfillment of the desire of the Missouri Botanical Garden under Director George T. Moore to improve its surroundings through subdivision of property bequeathed to the Garden in the will of Henry Shaw, and the clear vision of suburban development advanced by the Garden’s long-time landscape architect John Noyes. The resulting landscape is a rare realization within the city limits of progressive suburban planning ideals implemented in contemporary landscapes in St. Louis County. An earlier subdivision, the Tower Grove Park Addition (1870), was largely undeveloped when the Garden platted the Shaw’s Vandeventer Avenue Addition north of Shaw Avenue in 1916.
In 1923, the Garden platted the Shaw’s Garden Subdivision to the west of Alfred Avenue, which created a harmonious and carefully-designed residential enclave that utilized deed restrictions to mandate its character. Following this addition, two parts of the Tower Grove Addition were re-subdivided as private residential courts, and many buildings were built in that addition. The Shaw’s Garden Subdivision dominates the district’s landscape and sets its neatly-regulated physical and architectural character. Thus, the District encompasses 18 city blocks built out largely between 1916 and 1955 as a cohesive residential streetcar-served neighborhood embodying progressive concepts in suburban planning influenced by local subdivision plans by landscape architect Henry Wright as well as national ideals.
Development of the three subdivisions in this District are associated with residential development spurred by the city’s streetcar grid, the influences of Wright and the Garden City movement in local subdivision planning, the use of deed restrictions to limit uses and building sizes and the rise of the private street. The period of significance begins with the construction of the earliest contributing resource circa 1890 and runs through 1955, when the last primary contributing resources were completed on Heger Court. This period encompasses the full development of the Tower Grove Park Addition and the platting and development of the Shaw’s Vandeventer Avenue and Shaw’s Garden additions. At the end of the period of significance, through three major subdivisions and several re-plattings, the District became a uniform residential neighborhood framing Henry Shaw’s gifts to the city, the Missouri Botanical Garden and Tower Grove Park.
As the photos used here show, the district contains almost exclusively residential properties of similar age, form and materials, most of which are multi-family buildings. These multi-family buildings include two- and four-family buildings with external entrances as well as walk-up apartment buildings. Almost all of the buildings in the district are of masonry construction, with red brick being the dominant face material. The district’s buildings are in several styles, with Late 19th & 20th Century American Movements, Craftsman/Bungalow and Tudor Revival being most prevalent.
There are two private courts of single-family residences, Gurney and Heger courts, as well as groups of single-family homes on Alfred, Magnolia, Shenandoah and Tower Grove avenues. Commercial buildings are limited to Vandeventer Avenue, and many of those are excluded from the boundary, at one location on the west end of Shenandoah Avenue and at the intersection of Shaw and Castleman avenues. Also on Vandeventer Avenue stands the historic Festus J. Wade School, in the “Jacobethan” style. With few alterations — the construction of Interstate 44 took out a corner of the area and there has been some demolition on Vandeventer — the Shaw’s Garden Historic District is the most architecturally cohesive area around Tower Grove Park. The National Register listing will help ensure that remains the case for generations.
Read the full nomination text here.