Among the outlying common fields laid out by the French settlers of St. Louis was the Prairie des Noyers or "Meadows of the Walnut Trees". Established in 1769, this field included most of the present Shaw area, except its extreme northern section which was within the Cul de Sac Common Field and the St. Louis Commons. Prairie des Noyers was composed of a series of strips of varying widths running westward from what later became Grand Boulevard to Kingshighway. These were cultivated by the settlers in various crops.
After the Louisiana Purchase, the American government had to contend with land claims problems in the St. Louis area for decades. Confirmations in the Prairie des Noyers were secured by various French families, who later sold their tracts to land speculators. Large sections in the present Shaw area were acquired by Major William Christy, who sold them in 1816 to William Chambers. About 1860, these tracts were willed to Chambers' daughter, Mary Lawrence Tyler, who sold them to a subdivision developer in 1888.
By the mid 1850's, Henry Shaw had acquired several large tracts in the area, including the land now occupied by Tower Grove Park and Shaw's Garden, as well as a large tract north of the Chambers-Tyler holdings. Shaw also purchased the strip now occupied by Flora Place as an entrance way to his Botanical Garden. Along the north side of Magnolia Avenue was a strip of land owned by the Louis Bompart estate. Most of the northern part of the Shaw area was the property of Mrs. Mary McRee, who laid out the Laclede Race Course in McRee City in 1865. This was located in the wedge between the old and new Manchester Roads. Old Manchester is now Vandeventer Avenue.