History & Culture

Ranger Mac and Junior Rangers
Ranger Mac and Junior Rangers

Joe Lapp

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens has seen a lot of change over time. The park is on the ancestral homelands of the Nacotchtank people. Long before the arrival of the first European explorers, there has been vibrant cultures, with fishing, farming, hunting, and trading. The Nacotchtank utilized the resources on the Anacostia River for more than just food. From the cattail alone, people derived food, medicine, and the raw materials for household goods and shelter.

Over many years Kenilworth has gone from a marsh to a farm, a business to a park. Many people have made impacts on Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and the community that surrounds the park.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens General History

Time immemorial - The land of the Nacotchtank people
1608 - John Smith comes to the the Anacostia
1880 - Walter Shaw bought a small parcel of land here on the flats of the Anacostia River. An ice pond had been built in the edging wetland by a previous owner.

1875 - Lucy Helen Shaw was born. The second child and only daughter of Walter Shaw, she would marry Marion Fowler, be widowed, and become the partner, then proprietor of the Shaw Gardens

1921 - Shaw dies. The Shaw gardens were a commercial enterprise run by his widowed daughter, Helen Shaw Fowler, an avid promoter of water gardens and a member of the International Water Lily Society.

1912 - Dredging project begins on the Anacostia River, reaches the Shaw gardens in the 1930s. Mrs. Fowler receives notice of condemnation of land.

1930-1938 - Helen fought for the Shaw Gardens, and Congress authorized payment in 1938 of $15,000 for 8 acres. The gardens, saved from being filled, were added to Anacostia Park.

1950's - Mr. Fred Lundy, a gardener for the National Park Service, learned about water lilies from Helen Fowler who continued to live on the property for fifteen years until she died. Mr. Lundy continued the tradition of caring for the flowers.

1978 - Ranger Mac starts his job as a Park Ranger at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Helen Fowler and others who worked at the gardens
People of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Learn more about the people who shaped the aquatic gardens into the park it is today!

Last updated: August 22, 2023

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1900 Anacostia Ave SE
Washington, DC 20020


202 692-6080

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