A massive amount of land on the eastern edge of the Kennebec River was acquired by Sylvester Gardiner in the 18th century, but confiscated by the state during the American Revolutionary War (because Gardiner was a Loyalist who fled). Years later, the land was recovered by Gardiner’s grandson and heir, Robert Hallowell Gardiner. Upon coming to age, Robert Hallowell Gardiner returned to Maine in 1803, after graduating from Harvard, ready to straighten out and manage the holdings willed to him by his late grandfather Dr. Sylvester Gardiner, the founder of Gardiner, Maine. He came with no inclinations or training in business, but his cousin Charles Vaughan in Hallowell helped in steer him on the right course. Starting at the age of 25, Robert Hallowell Gardiner embarked on the task of developing an entire city, Gardiner, but with profit and investment in mind over the next sixty-one years. His business enterprises included: six dams, saw and gristmills, shipyards, foundries, a brick mill, broom making industries, furniture manufacture, paper making and the ice-harvesting business. He married Emma Jane Tudor of Boston (who he likely met during his time at Harvard, in 1805. They soon after built a home for their family and welcomed friends and family to stay there on the massive property. The first Oaklands estate burned in 1834 and the present Gothic Revival mansion on the site was built in 1835-37. Designed by English-born architect Richard Upjohn, Oaklands typifies an English country manor house and features a rectangular hip roof, hooded window moldings, turrets and elaborate stonework. Oaklands is among the first and finest 19th-century rural villas in the State of Maine and is among the most significant in the country. The home remains on over 310-acres of sprawling land which looks out over the Kennebec River, and is owned by the Gardiner family to this day!
Born into the heart of Boston Brahmin society (Boston’s elite class), Robert Gould Shaw II (1872-1930) had a life of great opportunity, but full of tragedy. Robert was born in Boston and was a first cousin of Robert Gould Shaw, the famed military officer who accepted command of the first all-Black regiment (the 54th Massachusetts) in the Northeast. Robert II had a life of leisure, and enjoyed his position in society by drinking and enjoying elite sporting events. He became a wealthy landowner around Boston, and international polo player of the Myopia Hunt Club in the North Shore. He gained a reputation for alcohol abuse and promiscuity and divorced his first wife after just four years, she would later move to England and marry Waldorf Astor, and become the first woman seated as a Member of Parliament. The couple’s only son Robert Gould Shaw III followed his mother to England, but was eventually imprisoned there for six months for “homosexual offenses”. His alcoholism and his mother’s death, may have led to his suicide in 1970. Robert Gould II in Boston, remarried and purchased land in Oak Hill, Newton to build a country estate. He hired James Lovell Little Jr. to design the Tudor style property with a mansion, and various outbuildings including a carriage house and stable. As the Gilded Age gave way to the Progressive Era and eventually the Great Depression, the Shaw fortune collapsed. Shaw died in New York in 1930. The estate was later purchased as the new home to Mt. Ida College, now a regional campus of UMass.
As another piece of this interesting family’s history… Louis Agassiz Shaw II, one of Robert’s four children in his second marriage, had all the opportunities of his father, as he attended Harvard, had a sizable bank account, but was a recluse and had some mental issues and paranoia. Like his elder half-brother Robert Gould Shaw III, and father, Louis struggled with depression and alcoholism and in 1964, he strangled his 64-year-old maid, who he said was plotting to murder him in his sleep. He confessed but plead not guilty; he was committed to Danvers State Hospital and later McLean, where he lived for 23 years until his death. After which, much of his art collection, which he intended to donate to the Fogg Museum at Harvard, was discovered to be fakes.
The Glen Magna Mansion in Danvers, MA exhibits the grandeur and elegance of the Gilded Age on the North Shore of Massachusetts. What is now a mansion, began as a modest Federal farmhouse built around 1790 by Jonathan Ingersoll, a sea captain who formerly resided in Salem Town. Ingersoll later sold the property and land in 1814 to Joseph Peabody, before moving to Windsor, Vermont, where he lived out the remainder of his days. Joseph Peabody apparently purchased the large farm estate to hide his cargo from the British, who blockaded trade with a young America’s allies. He later would expand the property, hiring a landscape architect to effectively transition the farmhouse into a summer estate.
By 1892, the property belonged to Ellen Peabody Endicott, Joseph Peabody’s granddaughter, who further enlarged and embellished the house and grounds, hiring the Boston firm of Little and Browne to update the estate in the Colonial Revival style. Her son, William Crowninshield Endicott, Jr., continued to improve the grounds, most notably in 1901 by moving the Derby Summer House to the property. In 1963, The Danvers Historical Society purchased the central eleven acres of the property and has worked to restore the gardens and grounds to its early 20th century appearance. Glen Magna is available for tours and events such as weddings.