Shaw Park is located along Brentwood Blvd., just north of Forest Park Parkway, near the heart of Clayton's bustling business district. Shaw Park is the city's oldest and largest park. Mayor Charles A. Shaw first established this 47.47 acre park in 1935. With a welcoming canopy of majestic trees and open grass areas, as well as lovely gardens, Shaw Park offers a respite from the bustle of the city. The parks Century Garden is home to the sculpture 'Venus Victorious' by Pierre August Renoir, on loan from the St. Louis Art Museum. Shaw Park's most recent addition is a state of the art inclusive playground. The new Tree Top Playground was opened to the public in October 2010 and has a sprayground, an authentic tree house play structure, a roller slide, swings and many other accessible amenities.
Shaw Park is home to an outdoor Aquatic Center, which includes a 50-meter competition pool, as well as a diving pool, and a splash and play pool for young children. It also has one of the few remaining outdoor Ice-Skating Rinks in the area. Other amenities include 10 Tennis Courts, ball fields, playgrounds, and Sand Volleyball Courts. Picnic facilities include Shaw Park Pavilion, a covered picnic site which can accommodate up to 180 guests, 2 picnic shelters, the North Shelter and the South Shelter, with rest room facilities and 16 paved picnic areas with tables, including 5 large pads with BBQs that can be reserved. Numerous benches provide places to stop and savor nature.
Shaw Park is the City’s oldest and largest city park established in 1935 and comprising nearly 50 acres of rolling hills, ball fields, canopy trees, parking lots and a variety of recreation facilities and amenities.
Shaw Park occupies land once owned by Charles Gratiot, the brother-in-law of Auguste Chauteau, who acquired a Spanish land grant of approximately 400 acres in the early 1800s. Gratiot sold it to Ralph Clayton, for whom the city is named, in 1820. Clayton lived on the property with his wife Rosanna McCausland, whom he married in 1831, and their three children. Clayton sold to John T. Davis, son of St. Louis dry goods merchant Samuel C. Davis, in 1892. With all his property combined, the 700-acre Davis Estate occupied everything west of Coleman Avenue (later called North and South Road and now Brentwood Boulevard) and area between Hanley and Brentwood from the Rock Island Railroad Line south to what became the St. Louis Country Club Grounds. A stockholder in the Forest Park and Clayton streetcar line, Davis saw a great future for the Clayton area. He subdivided the land in 1925 under the Davis Realty Company, resulting in the creation of the Davis Place neighborhood and ultimately, Shaw Park.
The park is named for Charles A. Shaw, who served as Clayton’s sixth mayor from 1933 to 1940 and is credited with bringing Clayton out of the Great Depression. A real estate developer by trade who helped create many of Clayton’s newer subdivisions, his greatest mayoral accomplishment was the acquisition and development of Shaw Park at a time when people were skittish about investment. In 1933, he persuaded a Republican-minded Clayton board to apply for a grant of the Works Progress Administration, a government program of President Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat.
In total, three separate applications were filed and granted. Land was acquired from the Davis Estate with grant money in 1935. That same year Shaw announced a second grant to improve the park, a project that created 300 jobs. In 1936, citizens voted in favor of a tax levy to maintain public parks in Clayton, and in 1937, Mayor Shaw unveiled an Olympic-sized swimming pool and large bath house, as well as plans for the completion of tennis courts, baseball fields, and a children’s playground.
May 29, 1937 was dedication day, when the pool was formally opened by Mrs. Betty Shaw as school bands played the National Anthem and Clayton residents enjoyed a Water Carnival. On completion, the park represented a $250,000 investment, with most funds provided by the federal government. In 1945, the City bought the last 50 acres of the Davis Estate west of Shaw Park for $5,000 an acre. It later sold eight acres to Brown Shoe Company for $300,000.
Many enhancements have followed, with the focus on the park’s two unique features, at one time the largest swimming pool complex in the Midwest and one of the finest ice rinks in the metro area. In 1960 citizens passed a bond issue to create the Clayton Ice Rink, a passion project of Mayor Bill Human, and in 1966, the Clayton Amateur Ice Hockey Association was formed for boys ages 6 to 16. Renovations in 1967 included a new pool, dive tank, wading pool, and modern bath house, and the aquatic facility was rededicated the Clayton Water Sports Center by Mayor Hy Waltuch. The pool complex was renamed Shaw Park Aquatic Center in 2002 after another series of renovations under Mayor Frank Kenney. In 2007 the Ice Rink closed for the season to undergo major renovations to its infrastructure. One of the last remaining outdoor ice rinks, it reopened Thanksgiving weekend 2008.
The establishment of Shaw Park spawned the creation of Clayton’s award-winning Parks and Recreation Department. Youth programs began in 1937 under the direction of the Clayton School District’s department of physical education, and teen programs began in 1948. In 1955 the Clayton Community Center was completed, and in 1956 a commission established to run city business created the position of Parks & Recreation Director. The Clayton Community Center was replaced in 2000 by The Center of Clayton, an innovative joint initiative of the Clayton School District and the Parks and Recreation Department. Conveniently located adjacent to Shaw Park, The Center features a host of indoor recreation facilities and houses the department’s administrative offices.
Clayton’s excellent park and recreation system continues to be dominated by Shaw Park, the site of numerous programs and camps and a variety of special events throughout the year. It also boasts ten tennis courts, ten ball fields, three playgrounds, two sand volleyball courts, and the Century Garden. Picnic facilities include the Shaw Park Pavilion, a covered picnic site that can accommodate up to 180 guests, 2 other covered picnic shelters with rest room facilities, five large picnic pads with barbeque grills, and 11 other paved picnic areas with tables, all of which are available for rental by Clayton residents. Walking/ running paths wind through the park and numerous benches provide places to stop and savor nature.