Tower Grove House

 

Tower Grove House_SteveFrank

 

Tower Grove House, the original country home of our founder Henry Shaw, is located in the Lichtenstein Victorian District of the southeast corner of the Missouri Botanical Garden.   

Tower Grove House is open to visitors seasonally Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, and the months of January through March. The House is also closed every year on Thanksgiving Day and on December 24 and 25.

Staff and volunteer interpreters are on hand in the House during open hours to enrich the visiting experience and to talk with you about the rich history of the Garden, Henry Shaw, and the St. Louis community. Entry is included with Garden admission.

 Learn more about all the experiences in the Victorian District here.


  

Tower Grove House in the 20th Century

 Tower Grove House was designed by famous St. Louis architect George I. Barnett in a traditional Lake Cumo Italianate style of architecture,one of the first of its kind in St. Louis in 1849. Henry Shaw split his time between his city home, a 17 room townhouse located at 7th & Locust (now on Garden grounds) and here at Tower Grove House, his much smaller country residence. The western side of the home, including a parlor, formal and informal dining space, and 2 bedrooms, would have been Shaw’s domain. With high ceilings, marble fireplaces and hand carved woodwork, Tower Grove House is an ideal example of Victorian style. The eastern part of the home would have reflected a much smaller, dormitory style space for his hired house help to reside. 

Like the Garden, Tower Grove House has undergone many changes over the years. In 1890, the east side of the home was completely rebuilt to accommodate the needs of Dr. William Trelease, the Garden's first director, and his growing family. Trelease, his wife Julia, and their four children made Tower Grove House their family home for 23 years. Beyond expanding the number of bedrooms, the Trelease family updated the home with a number of the newest home technologies, including a state of the art bathroom and an indoor kitchen. This allowed the residents to enjoy improved sanitary conditions. During the Trelease family's residency (1889-1912), Tower Grove House changed with the world around it. From this place, the Trelease family would navigate the achievements and the hardships that come with everyday life and create a scientific legacy that would establish the Missouri Botanical Garden as one of the best in the country.

After 100 years of use as a private home, school, dormitory, and office building, the house underwent meticulous renovation. Electricity was added in 1912, and a stucco exterior was applied in 1918. Furniture and materials once belonging to Shaw were located and restored. It opened to the public as a historic home in 1953. Tower Grove House was rededicated on October 29, 2005, after another period of extensive restoration on the western part of the home to share Henry Shaw's life and legacy. The eastern bedrooms on the second floor, which opened in 2019, underwent complete transformation to share the narrative of the Trelease family. Many of the 19th century furnishings belonged to Shaw; other are items from the same era.

Today, staff and volunteers encourage visitors to take a step back in time and experience the country home of Henry Shaw. Artifacts and furniture that belonged to Shaw are on display, along with the stories of their role in Victorian culture. Voices from the past tell stories of those who helped build Shaw’s Garden. The Garden has expanded in the years since 1859; come see for yourself where it all began.

Room by Room Narrative

 

Reception Room

The home’s eastern half was rebuilt after Shaw’s death in order to expand and modernize the home for the new Garden Director, Dr. William Trelease. A five-minute video introduces visitors to Henry Shaw and Tower Grove House. Visitors may learn about the Garden during and after Shaw’s time by following a historical timeline, exploring Trelease’s contributions to the Garden and changes in Tower Grove House itself.

First Floor Hallway

The hallway has been restored to reflect what Shaw would have seen upon entering the home. The linoleum flooring is a reproduction of the lower of two layers of the home’s original linoleum which were uncovered during restoration.

Front Parlor

In this room and throughout the house, visitors can see items acquired during or inspired by Shaw’s travels. Some examples of original pieces are an oak table with in-laid marble top from Italy and a unique rosewood upright piano from England. Additionally, a translucent archival photo in the window will allow visitors to compare the 19th century view to the present one.

Tower Grove House Holiday Decorations

Formal Dining Room

Although a dining room, Shaw planned and managed the Garden from this room. Replica maps, correspondence, and a ledger book are spread informally across the large table in this room where Shaw often worked and occasionally entertained guests.



Informal Dining Room

This small room on the first floor was added to the back of the house in the 1880s to provide a more pleasant and healthy dining space after Shaw’s basement dining room had become polluted by poor drainage.

Second Floor Hall

A trompe l’oeil mural was revealed during restoration when a large wood and glass display case was pulled away from the wall and relocated. A section of the mural has been cleaned and kept for display. A panel shows photos from the tower then and now. Another panel explains how the house has changed physically and what was and is in the east wing that visitors do not see.

Guest Bedroom

The guest room is presented as if a visiting botanist is doing research. Shaw’s sister Caroline and botanical scientists such as Asa Gray and George Engelmann were among the guests who probably slept in this bedroom.

Shaw’s Bedroom

The impressive furnishings in this room are largely from Shaw’s city residence. Replica gardening periodicals and a copy of Shaw’s will are on the desk. Through his will, Shaw established the trust that runs the Garden today, endowed the Washington University School of Botany and provided for many local charities.

Gate to the Victorian District

Basement

In the southwest room, visitors are invited to sit, read and listen as photographs, text and audible quotes tell the stories of Shaw’s staff. Photographs of housekeeper Rebecca Edom, Shaw’s personal assistant John Feugh and head gardener James Gurney are authentic. Other photographs are representative of the era. One panel discusses the enslaved people that Shaw owned.

The northwest room displays large photographic murals with tools and other implements used at the farm and garden. In the hall, a panel tells visitors about how the original location of the kitchen was determined, and why the east wing was demolished and rebuilt. In Shaw’s time, the kitchen was on the east side of the house and was entered through the basement.

Tower Grove House is open Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Mondays, Tuesdays and the months of January through March. The House is also closed every year on Thanksgiving Day and on December 24 and 25.

Staff and volunteer interpreters are on hand in the House to enrich and inspire you about the rich history of the Garden, Henry Shaw and Tower Grove House. Entry is included with Garden admission.