Shaw Neighborhood Overview

Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.


The Shaw neighborhood is located on the near Southside adjacent to the Missouri Botanical Gardens and Tower Grove Park and just north of the South Grand commercial district. The neighborhood is defined by Interstate 44 on the North, Magnolia Avenue on the South, S. Grand Boulevard on the East and Tower Grove Avenue on the West.


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 was composed of a series of strips running westward from Grand Boulevard to Kingshighway and included most of the present Shaw area. After the Louisiana Purchase, the American Government confirmed ownership of these parcels by various French families, who later sold their tracts to land speculators.

The Shaw neighborhood takes its name from Henry Shaw, who arrived in St. Louis from England in 1819. Shaw was a prosperous merchant in the hardware business and philanthropist;who by the mid 1850's had also acquired several large tracts in the area.

On a return trip to England, Henry Shaw was impressed by the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew and became determined to establish a botanical garden in his adopted city. Accordingly, the Missouri Botanical Garden was founded and laid out on Shaw's land, adjacent to his country home, in 1858.

Tower Grove Park dates from 1868, when Shaw deeded 276 acres of his country estate to the City of St. Louis for use as a park;he insisted that it be governed by an independent board of commissioners, of which he would be a life member. In this way, Shaw retained control over Tower Grove's development as a Victorian walking park.

A series of bird's-eye view drawings made for the Compton and Dry's pictorial atlas of 1875 provides realistic views of the area at that time. (INSERT IMAGES)

Shaw began platting out some of his holdings in 1878 and built the ten houses that make up Shaw Place, in the 1880's.

Large sections of the area were acquired by William Christy, a member of the He later sold them to William Chambers. About 1860, these tracts were willed to Chamber's daughter, Mary Lawrence Tyler.

In 1887, Mary Tyler sold her property to a developer, resulting in the Tyler Place subdivision. Nevertheless, development in the area did not gain real momentum until the opening of the Grand Avenue Viaduct in 1889. Until that time, property owners had to travel east to Jefferson Avenue in order to cross Mill Creek Valley, thus, isolating the area and limiting it to wealthy families that could afford the leisurely commute.

Over the next decade, four hundred residences were built in the subdivision. This was followed by another thousand in the next ten years. The development of Tyler place formed the largest portion of what is defined as Shaw today, the area from Grand Boulevard to Tower Grove Avenue, between Shaw Avenue south to Magnolia Avenue with the exception of Flora Place. Deed restrictions established a uniform building line and limited construction to two-story brick buildings. Although the area's single-family homes had attracted some wealthy families, most households were headed by middle-income wage earners who labored in the downtown business district or in the shops and institutions along South Grand Boulevard.

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