Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

1550 Anacostia Ave NE

Washington, DC 20019


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Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is the only national park devoted to water loving plants, such as lily pads. Walter Shaw was a Civil War veteran who fought for the Union, and as a result, lost his right arm. He worked as a clerk at the Treasury Department. The former soldier in the evenings would work on creating a series of ponds on property he owned. At first, he wanted to bring flora from his native Maine but later he expanded to other aquatic flowers such as the lotus. As his gardens grew, he was able to sell them for a profit. He was able to leave his job at the Treasury Department, in order to expand operations of 45 square ponds. Each pond would be home to a different species of aquatic life; including lily pads, lotuses and Japanese carp. One of the major purchasers was the Waldorf-Astoria, who bought over 70,000 Egyptian lotuses alone.

The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.
— Buddhis Proverb

His daughter, Helen inherited the business once Walter Shaw died in 1921. During the 1930s, the property was condemned during a dredging project of the Potomac. She negotiated with Secretary of War Louis Johnson to purchase the land for $15,000 in order to turn it into parkland. Helen was able to live in the home until the 1960's upon her death.

Today, besides the water lilies, there are also 650 species of insects, 150 species of land plants, 76 species of birds, 18 species of fish and other mammals and reptiles spread over 700 acres.