Missouri Garden Celebrates History

Henry Shaw’s botanical garden in St. Louis opened to the public in 1859, and is now the oldest garden in continuous operation in the nation.

The Chinese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

The Chinese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

courtesy Kevin Wolf/Missouri Botanical Garden

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St. Louis – On June 15, 1859, Missouri Botanical Garden founder Henry Shaw opened his beloved garden to the public, making it the oldest botanical garden in continuous operation in the United States. In honor of the Garden’s Sesquicentennial anniversary, admission to the Garden and the Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden will be $1.50 all day long.

Proclamations and resolutions will be presented by local dignitaries beginning at 11 a.m. to honor the garden’s 150-year commitment to its mission “to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment, in order to preserve and enrich life.” The United States Postal Service will issue a pictorial stamp cancellation to mark the occasion. Stamp collectors can visit the temporary philatelic station throughout the day. Commemorative post cards will be available.

The day begins at 10 a.m. with St. Louis Zoo educational programming and activities in the Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden. Throughout the day, chalk artist Joan Finn will create garden-themed images on the Spoehrer and Linnean Plazas near the Ridgway Visitor Center. Financial assistance for this project has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

Beginning at 1 p.m., visitors will be greeted by stilt walkers from Everydaycircus Inc. Henry Shaw, accompanied by two Victorian women, will walk the garden as an organ grinder, reminiscent of the late 19th century, entertains guests. On this rare occasion, the Museum Building will be open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Built in 1859, the same year the Garden opened to the public, the historic building originally housed Henry Shaw’s library herbarium.

When Henry Shaw arrived in St. Louis in 1819, St. Louis was only slightly larger than the original fur trading village that had been laid out by Auguste Chouteau in 1764. As part of the day’s activities, Emily Jaycox from the Missouri History Museum will present “Mapping St. Louis in the Era of Henry Shaw.” From 1 to 2 p.m. in the Shoenberg Theater on the lower level of the Ridgway Visitor Center, Jaycox will deliver an illustrated talk on the St. Louis of Henry Shaw’s day, using maps from the museum’s collections. Visitors can also learn about the history of both the Missouri Botanical Garden and Tower Grove Park from Andy Colligan, the garden’s archives librarian. The lecture will also take place in the Shoenberg Theater from 2 to 3 p.m.

For more than 150 years, the Missouri Botanical Garden has been an iconic treasure nestled in the heart of the city of St. Louis. With scientists conducting research in 38 countries, the garden is a center for botanical research and science education. Join Dr. Peter H. Raven, president and director, for a discussion about the past, present and future of the garden. For more than 30 years, Raven has headed the garden, an institution he nurtured into a world-class center for botanical research and education, and horticultural display. Described by Time magazine as a “Hero for the Planet,” Raven champions research around the world to preserve endangered plants. The lecture will take place in the Shoenberg Theater from 3 to 4 p.m.

The sesquicentennial celebratory events will continue into the evening hours with “Spunky Beans” balloon clown and face painting. A family movie night will begin at 8:30 p.m in the Cohen Amphitheater near the Kemper Center for Home Gardening. The Children’s Garden will remain open until 8 p.m.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is the oldest continually operating botanical garden in the nation. Emerson is the presenting sponsor of the year-long sesquicentennial celebration, Missouri Botanical Garden: Green for 150 Years. Today, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display.

The garden is located at 4344 Shaw Blvd. in St. Louis, just south of I-44 at Vandeventer-Kingshighway (exit #287B). Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Dec. 25. Grounds open at 7 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday. Admission is $8; free children ages 12 and under and garden members. St. Louis city and county residents are $4 and free every Wednesday and Saturday until noon (exception: special admission rate events). Park for free on site and two blocks west at the Shaw-Vandeventer intersection. The garden is easily accessible by taking the MetroLink commuter rail line to the Central West End station and picking up a Metro bus. For general information, log on to the website, call the 24-hour recording at 314-577-9400 or call toll-free 800-642-8842. For membership information, call 314-577-5118 during weekday business hours. For volunteer opportunities, call 314-577-5187 or visit the website. The Missouri Botanical Garden is a tobacco-free environment.