Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
— National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior —
"Beauty cannot be purchased, it must be created."
— Helen Shaw Fowler
Welcome to these aquatic gardens—transcend the busy streets and embrace the unique beauty, pease and natural rhythm to be found here.
The pond area today looks much as it did during the early 20th century when it was operating as one of the largest aquatic plant business in the nation.
Shaw Gardens was started in the 1880s by Civil War veteran Walter B. Shaw. The water gardens blended plant sailes with aesthetic beauty. After 1912, Shaw's daughter Helen led the company. Together, family members and hired laborers dug ponds, planted, nurtured, and harvested aquatic plants.
Along with being available for purchase by local residents, plants shipments were sent every week to New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago.
A Floral Experience in Washington, D.C.
Thousands of blooming flowers drew hundreds of Washingtonians to these aquatic gardens on summer weekends during the early 1900s.
Visitors came from all walks of life and included government officials, plant lovers and those who just wanted to picnic for an afternoon.
President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, as well as First Ladies Florence
Harding and Grace Coolidge frequented the gardens and became friends with the Shaw family.
In 1938, as Washington Post reporter wrote:
"The ponds are separated by dikes with grassy paths, shaded by large trees making a picture of satisfying beauty.
Acres of blooms reach away in all directions, the surface of the water almost entirely with foliage and blossoms of white, pink, rose, crimson and blue. . ."