National Register South St. Louis Southwest Garden

Introducing the Shaw’s Garden Historic District

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 Craftsman style is prevalent in the District, as evinced by these two-family buildings in the 4500 block of Shenandoah Avenue.

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.

The Tudor Revival-style house at 2605 Alfred Avenue, built in 1923 and designed by Sol Abrahms, faces the Missouri Botanical Garden.

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.

Avis & Schram designed a group of five four-family walk-up buildings on the south side of the 4500 block of Flad Avenue. Built in 1925, these buildings have strong brick detailing.
Several four-story apartment buildings are located at corners in the District. This one, designed by C. Etz and built by Liebowitz Construction Company, is located at 2051-55 Maury Avenue and was built in 1929.

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.

The Festus J. Wade School stands at 2030 Vandeventer Avenue. Built in 1928 and designed by Rockwell Milligan, the building currently is vacant.
The large single-family bungalows on Gurney Court were built in the 1920s by developer, buiilder and designer William Remmert.

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.

7 replies on “Introducing the Shaw’s Garden Historic District”

“Some demolition on Vandeventer”. You mean the entire row of multi-families at Shaw razed for the Garden parking lot? And wasn’t there a commercial building where the plant library now stands?

Still, it is indeed a remarkably intact area. But that is primarily because it has remained largely stable, with the residents aid. Not to mention that the cops have to pay attention to the neighborhood, seeing as how there is some wealth, and some very loud-mouthed residents. From my observations, and experience, the MSLPD have little to no interest in many parts of the City, and show it by their disdainful attitudes towards the residents. This does not occur in the Southwest Garden nabe, as the cops are often quite solicitous of–and occasionally friendly to–the residents and property owners.

Didn’t you mean the east side of Kingshighway and the west side of the garden? I had a hard time figuring out what you meant until I saw the map and I realized the text or the map was wrong.

Clearly you do not live in Southwest Garden. SWG’s stability is primarily due to the fact that property owners pay for private security service. The STLPD has specifically informed us that our corner of the city is, in fact, not a priority. They may be friendly to those living here but their focus is elsewhere.

Well, considering that my older brother lives in that nabe, and has four properties there, and has had a number of friendly conversations with STL’s Finest(tm), in my presence, I’ll take my word over yours. And since I live in Dutchtown, and have seen cops completely ignore the actions of lawbreakers (the worst being the guy who emptied the magazine of his revolver in the alley across the street, and who was then ignored by the fuzz, even though there were numerous witnesses), I’ll stand by my words with regards to the attention of the STLPD. One more thing: Do you really think some $10/hour rent-a-cop, with his vehicle clearly marked, is going to do that much? I doubt that his presence is that much of a deterrent. I suspect that the somewhat geographically isolated nature of SWG has a lot to do with its fairly low crime rate. Not to mention the homogeneous demographics therein: mostly middle-class, and of relatively similar incomes and backgrounds.

Frankly, the STLPD doesn’t do too well anywhere. Fact of the matter is, they own us, and they know it. Without oversight, and control by the City, they can, and do–from my observations–take advantage of the current situation, whereby the Confederate States of America control them through the state. And looking at the lobbying by the constabulary whenever the attempts to change that state of affairs comes up, nearly every year, it appears that the STLPD is quite satisfied with that.

Enjoy SWG. It’s a nice nabe.

My apologies to Mr. Allen for being, yet again, a threadjacking tool.

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