This unique feature of Washington's park system holds important collections of water plants, fish, reptiles, and amphibians; associated with the botanical study and development of water plants; site of early experiments in hybridization; purchased as farm after Civil War by W.B. Shaw, war veteran and civil servant; operated as commercial operation (Shaw Gardens) by Shaw and daughter Helen Shaw Fowler from 1882 to 1938; purchased by National Park Service in 1938; 9-acre gardens include water lilies and other species in series of irregular ponds, dikes, and marshes on the Anacostia River floodplain; also includes board-and-batten Administration Building, built 1912, and two greenhouses built 1913.
Although Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are locally important today as a part of Washington's Park System its greater significance lies in its contribution to the botanical study and development of water plants and gardens under the direction of its founder, W.B.Shaw and his daughter, L.Helen Fowler, It continues today as a noted water garden under the National Park Service.
DC listing March 7, 1968
National Register listing August 25, 1978