Doris Waters Harris Lichtenstein Victorian District
Hawk in front of the observatory

The Doris Waters Harris Lichtenstein Victorian District, opened in summer 2008, unifies and enhances several gardens and Victorian-era buildings. The area stretches from the enclosed Victory (of Science over Ignorance) sculpture to the eastern wall, back to founder Henry Shaw’s original city townhouse.

In spring 2007, the Missouri Botanical Garden received a substantial gift to establish the district from Mrs. Lichtenstein. Construction began in summer 2007. Dr. Brent Elliott, a renowned authority on Victorian gardens, consulted on the project, designed by MTR Landscape Architects. Elliott is the librarian and archivist at the Royal Horticultural Society Lindley Library in London.

New developments include:

  • A Victorian-style “pincushion garden” of mostly succulent plants along the path from the Museum Building to the Piper Observatory.
  • Resurfacing many paths in brick, aggregate and other historically appropriate materials, with embedded medallions honoring donors.
  • Redirecting some paths for more scenic views.
  • New path lighting.
  • Graceful columns marking the north and south entrance paths leading into the area.
Victory of Science Over Ignorance

Garden founder Henry Shaw was himself a Victorian gentleman and designed much of his property to reflect Victorian sensibilities. His country home, Tower Grove House, was built in 1849 in the then-fashionable Italianate “Lake Como” style. Shaw is entombed in the granite mausoleum beneath towering oaks near the house.

Many areas encompassed by the Victorian District were designed to complement or even replicate Shaw’s Victorian style and have benefited from the generosity of donors throughout the years.

The Kresko Family Victorian Garden (1997), east of Tower Grove House, resembles an early garden built by Shaw in front of his original conservatories, on the present site of the Climatron® reflecting pools. Then, as now, the centerpiece was the white marble statue of Juno by Carl Nicoli, which was acquired by Shaw in 1885. This garden is an outstanding example of the height of fashion in England at the time Shaw was planting his gardens in St. Louis. The style of landscaping was introduced in the early 1800s, when new varieties of flowers were being developed and new species were coming into England from different parts of the world. Elaborate and colorful combinations of flowers, foliage and succulents were combined in “plant tapestries,” the colorful combinations were laid out in intricate designs referred to as “carpet bedding.”

Victorian District

Visitors will see annual bedding plants of many types, colors and sizes throughout the year as the displays change with the seasons. These colorful planting schemes are typically drawn and installed two to three times a year, using between 3,000 and 5,000 plants in the summer. Today, more varieties of flowers and foliage are available than were possible in Victorian times. Improved selections and innumerable colors allow visitors to enjoy an even more beautiful Victorian garden than Queen Victoria herself could!

Kaeser Memorial Maze (1986) re-creates a labyrinth constructed by Shaw in the 1800s with sunken hedges of yew and a gazebo at its center. It was replanted in February 2008; therefore, it will take a few years for the yews to reach their desired height.

Planted succulent circle in Pincushion Garden

The Pincushion Garden, one of the largest of its kind in the world, resurrects a "lost art" of garden design once common in traditional Victorian displays. During the early 1900’s the Garden only had 2 circular beds on either side of the entrance to Spink Pavillion.  Each year they had a different display within the beds.  Some years it was a mix of the Garden’s cacti collection bedded out at random and other years it was an intricate carpet bedding design of succlents.  Today’s designs mimic the intricate patterns from those 2 beds.

20 circular beds host approximately 25,000 succulent plants arranged in geometric designs. Innovative drainage and irrigation techniques have been incorporated into the design of the new garden, and horticulturists work with plant cuttings to replant each year rather than purchase new succulents.This meticulous and intricate design work takes nearly two weeks to install by a team of ten horticulturists and volunteers.

Piper Observatory (1996) is a replica of one built by Henry Shaw in the 19th century in Tower Grove Park.

St. Louis Herb Society Herb Garden (2003), enclosed in an ornamental iron fence behind Tower Grove House, includes beds of culinary and medicinal herbs in imitation of Shaw’s original kitchen garden. The current garden is divided into culinary, medicinal, utility, and fragrance according to how the herbs are used. Learn more.

Tower Grove House (1849) underwent a two-year renovation and reinterpretation as part of a capital campaign before reopening in 2005 with a renewed focus on the life and times of Henry Shaw. Learn more.