Helen Shaw Fowler

Helen Shaw Fowler (HM2MAU)

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N 38° 54.767', W 76° 56.517'

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Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

— National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior —

Helen Fowler took over administration of the Shaw Gardens from her father in 1912. Under her guidance the gardens grew into one of the most extensive water plant businesses in the nation. By 1938, Shaw Gardens encompassed 42 ponds spread over nine acres contained 500,000 plants. Widely respected, Fowler traveled the world to collect lilies and roots. The botanist and curator of the U.S. National Herbarium gave her a letter of introduction to directors of botanical gardens in the West Indies and South America.

The business was progressive for its time. In addition to being woman-owned, Helen Fowler employed a number of local African American residents. She was the first woman in Washington, D.C. to have a commercial driver's license.

Local women's organizations such as the YWCA and the Women's Improvement Club of Silver Spring, Maryland, recognized Helen's role as a business owner and invited her to speak on several occasions.

Presiding over the whole establishment — ponds, pools, greenhouses, studio — is a woman, Mrs. Helen L. Fowler"
1935 article in the Washington Post

From Commerce to Community

A proposed expansion of Anacostia Park by eminent domain, to include seizure of the Shaw Gardens, sparked

a 19-year legal battle.

Helen Fowler led the Shaw family in opposing this plan by the federal government. With public and political pressure weighing against her, Helen Fowler agreed to sell the gardens to the government in 1938, for $50,000.

She lived on this property, serving as an authority on aquatic plants and advisor to the national park staff, until her death in 1957.
Placed ByNational Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, October 27th, 2019 at 11:04am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 331630 N 4308890
Decimal Degrees38.91278333, -76.94195000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 54.767', W 76° 56.517'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 54' 46.02" N, 76° 56' 31.02" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling West
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