The land that is now Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens originally was purchased by Civil War veteran Walter B. Shaw in the 1880s. Feeling homesick, Shaw had wild waterlilies native to his home state of Maine brought and planted in the land.
When the flowers Shaw brought thrived in the environment, Shaw brought in more plants and started a commercial attraction under the name W.B. Shaw Lily Ponds in 1912. In 1921, when Shaw died, his daughter, Helen Shaw Fowler, took over the prospering business which was being visited by many dignitaries, including U.S. presidents.
Unfortunately, by this time the nearby Anacostia River had become filled with an excess of silt making navigation on the river difficult. The United States Army Corps of Engineers was called in to dredge the river which meant that the gardens were in danger of being destroyed. Helen fought to save the gardens and eventually in 1938, U.S. Congress authorized the purchase of the gardens for $15,000 to create the park. source
There are two types of lilies at the park: hardy and tropical. The hardy lilies are kept in the ponds year-round. The tropical species are removed from the water and stored in the greenhouse for the winter, then transferred back to the ponds once the weather warms, usually in late May. They can be distinguished from each other by their leaves. Hardy lilies have leaves with smooth edges, while the leaves of tropical lilies have serrated edges. source
1900 Anacostia Ave SE
Washington, DC 20020