Henry Shaw’s 213th birthday celebrated at Botanical Garden

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ST. LOUIS, MO. (KPLR) – The hands of time were turned back today at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

But modern day visitors wouldn't recognize Henry Shaw's garden when it began.

'It was all prairie, there weren't any trees here,' says Missouri Botanical Garden senior manager of exhibits and events Lynn Kerkemeyer.  'He decided to build his country home here and it took about six hours to get here by buggy from downtown St. Louis.

Let's just consider the trip that now only takes us twenty minutes to the Kingshighway exit.
This was once the country home of Henry Shaw a man who made his fortune, retired at age 39, and began collecting plant samples from around the world.

'And we have over six million herbarium samples,' says Kerkemeyer.  'Henry Shaw actually started that in his time.'

Today, trees are still standing that Shaw planted himself in the late 1800's.

'We needed a gift to the city,' says a man who looked and sounded a lot like Henry Shaw.  'We needed to develop something that's not just something to look at but we could enjoy and learn from.  And this is why it's a botanical garden.'

Originally from Europe, Shaw patterned this garden after the ones he had seen overseas, which weren't open to the public.

'He made sure that this was open to the public and that it had Sunday hours so that people who worked six days a week back in that time could come and experience the garden,' says Kerkemeyer.

So what do you get a 213 year old man for his birthday?

'Never bake a cake with 213 candles,' says Shaw.  'It is a fire hazard.  Secondly, when you're 213 years old you cannot blow out 213 candles.  So it's best just to take him to the park or a garden for the day.  That is the best birthday present of all.'

And that's not too bad, considering the present he gave this city.

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