Established by Henry Shaw on his own private land, this 280-acre linear park was designed and developed by Shaw and donated to the City of St. Louis in 1868. Shaw had previously founded the adjacent Missouri Botanical Garden on land that was also part of his estate, Tower Grove. Little altered since its conception, the park is situated on a long, narrow strip of land, with curving paths and roads closer to the edge of the property on the western half and a wide central alleé, with a road and parallel paths, that runs the length of the eastern end of the park. The park incorporates a series of pavilions, a music stand, shelter houses, mock ruins, lily ponds, bridges, fountains, statuary, stables, residences, and two conservatories, including the 1878 Palm House, the oldest standing greenhouse west of the Mississippi. The park also includes a collection of 435 varieties of more than 10,000 trees and woody shrubs.
Since 1988 under the leadership of the Friends of Tower Grove Park, the park has undergone restoration and rehabilitation of a majority of the built historic features and the living landscape. A planting plan based on original plant lists and other documents guides the selection and installation of new specimens, gradually reestablishing much of Shaw’s original Victorian Gardenesque vision. The park was listed in the National Register in 1972 and designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1989.