Christ Episcopal Church, Gardiner // 1820

The oldest known example of ecclesiastical Gothic Revival architecture in New England is surprisingly located right in Gardiner, Maine, the Christ Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church in Gardiner was organized in 1772 by Sylvester Gardiner, a major landowner for whom the city is named as the town’s main church. Two more vernacular buildings were constructed as houses of worship until a new, fireproof structure was desired. Built in 1820, the stone church was designed by the Reverend Samuel Farmer Jarvis, who was likely heavily inspired by the stone churches found in England. The church has massive lancet Gothic windows with tracery, that in the tower considerably larger.

Mitchell-Patten House // c.1840

One of the most stunning examples of Greek Revival architecture in Gardiner, Maine, is the Mitchell-Patten House. The home was constructed in the mid-1840s for John S. Mitchell (1804-1891) head of the firm of Mitchell, Wilson and Co., who were traders on the Kennebec river, in lumber and other goods. The home was likely built not long after John’s wife, Philenia Sewall Mitchell died during childbirth in 1837 to the couple’s son, who died at just two years old himself. After the death of his wife and only son, John met Mary and they married, moving into this home. Together, they had four children. Together, they had three sons, but like with his first marriage, tragedy wasn’t far behind. Their first son was stillborn, their son William died at age 27, and their third son, Egbert died in his first year. The family home was willed to the couple’s only living child, Susan, after her marriage to husband Freeman Patten. Freeman was a successful businessman in town and worked as a bank director, and later served as President of the Board of Trade and as Mayor of Gardiner 1899-1900.

Oaklands // 1835

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!

Reverend Hanson House // 1853

This Carpenter Gothic house in Gardiner, Maine, was built in 1853 by Reverend J.W. Hanson, author of the 1852 History of Gardiner, Pittston and West Gardiner and the second minister (1850-54) of the Universalist Church (last post), after its organization in 1843. Hanson was likely inspired by the design of his church when having his own home built, as he followed the Gothic mode. His house features board-and-batten siding, bargeboards, and trefoil windows and carvings in the said bargeboards. Reverend Hanson lived in the home until 1868 when he moved to Dubuque, Iowa. The home is very well preserved and one of the best examples of the Carpenter Gothic style in the state.

Gardiner Universalist Church // 1843

This stunning Gothic Revival church was built in 1843, on the site of the blockhouse, erected 80 years prior for the settlers of the area from native attack. In the 17th and 18th centuries, many rural parts of New England had blockhouses erected to allow the settlers a defensive fort from attack. The blockhouses were often garrisoned wooden structures with small windows on all sides to allow for gunfire to attackers below. The structure would protect those inside from arrows and melee weapons. This building however, was constructed later for the Universalists, who believed in “universal salvation,” who had been meeting since 1821 in a schoolhouse beside the town common. The church, in its original state with its steeple and clock, was an extremely sophisticated example in wood of the Gothic Revival style with its pinnacles, lancet windows and pilasters. Sadly, the steeple and clock were removed in the early 1920’s for safety reasons as the structure could not support it without significant engineering. The church and congregation changed to the United Church of Christ-Congregational denomination in 1964. After that, the building was occupied by a brewery (believe it or not), before being reverted back to a church by the current congregation.

Christian Science Church, Gardiner // 1905

The first purpose-built Church of Christ, Scientist church in Maine is this turn-of-the-century edifice constructed in 1905 in Gardiner. Organized in 1897, this Christian Science Society of Gardiner met for several years in members’ homes and public places nearby until Palmer Noyes and his wife Caroline funded the new building. Caroline and Palmer helped establish the first such church in Chicago, after the couple witnessing a ‘healing’ and then heard Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy lecture in 1882. This church in Gardiner was seemingly designed by Caroline, who was likely inspired by architectural influences on the churches in town, from Gothic style lancet windows, to the shingle style facades. The building was eventually converted to a development center for the disabled, and is now known as “The Stone Turret”, a bed & breakfast, with amazing stained glass windows!

Laura Richards House // 1810

This stunning Federal style house in Gardiner, Maine, was built about 1810 by Ebenezer Byram, who had purchased the land from Robert Hallowell Gardiner, a descendant of Dr. Sylvester Gardiner, the “founder” of the town. Dr. Gardiner was a resourceful Boston druggist, who was one of the principal owners of the Kennebec Purchase, known as the Plymouth Company, who purchased land on the west side of the Kennebec River in Maine. Dr. Sylvester Gardiner had been attracted to the Gardiner area for a number of reasons, primarily because of the depth of the water of the river to the point of Gardiner as the head of navigation for ships here. This house overlooking that river was purchased in 1878, by Henry and Laura E. Richards. Laura Richards (1850-1943) was the daughter of Samuel Gridley Howe, an abolitionist and the founder of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind. Her mother, Julia Ward Howe wrote the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, a tune that I am sure most of you have heard of, but never knew the name. Henry and Laura moved to Gardiner in 1876 after suffering financial reverses in Boston, where Henry worked at his family’s paper mill, and it was about that time that Laura Richards began her writing career. At this house in Gardiner, Laura wrote more than 90 books including biographies (including one on her mother), poetry, and several children’s books. Even more impressive, Laura was awarded one of the first four ever Pulitzer Prize in 1917 for her biography on her mother, years before women were even afforded the right to vote!

Gardiner Almshouse // 1834

This large brick Federal house was built on the outskirts of Gardiner, Maine, in 1834. Ebenezer Moore, the builder, worked as a carpenter and house-wright in town and showcased his skill on his own brick mansion, selling it to a C.E. Bradstreet. By the late 1840s, the town of Gardiner decided that it would need a new almshouse, city-provided housing for the poor, so they purchased the Bradstreet house and 14-acres of land. In the 1848 town report documents noted, “The establishment is a brick one, of two stories, containing thirty-six fine rooms, including seven fitted for the insane in the most admirable manner, together with a spacious hall. The building is every way a most excellent one for the purpose, and is a monument of the humanity and generosity of the city.” The almshouse served as a working farm where the poor could harvest their own crops and contribute in a small, closed society. The almshouse burned in 1909, and was immediately rebuilt using the outside brick walls. In the Colonial Revival manner, a gambrel roof replaced the former gable roof, which added a third story to the almshouse. The building was eventually sold, as new housing models for low-income residents took off. The former almshouse was converted to an apartment building in 1970, a use that appears to continue to this day.

Tucker Octagon House // 1856

The Octagon form of architecture was conceived in 1848 in the prolific mind of Orson Squire Fowler, phrenologist and author of books on sex, family relations, and many other subjects. His book A Home for All, or, the Gravel Wall and Octagon Mode of Building struck the fancy of a certain few, and Octagon homes were built across the country, for just about a decade until they fell out of favor almost overnight. This home in West Gardiner, Maine, was built by Jesse Tucker in 1856 on land his father had cleared, replacing a more standard structure. The new octagon house was being constructed as a gift to Jesse’s soon-to-be wife, but tragically fell from the roof of the barn when building, and died. The home was completed, and it was seemingly acquired by Jesse’s twin brother David. The home remained in the Tucker family until the 1950s.

Peter Grant House // 1830

The this 1830 home in Farmingdale ranks as one of the first Greek Revival temple style residences in Maine. Situated on a rise overlooking the Kennebec River, the house reflects a dignity befitting the commercial success of its original owner, Peter Grant. Peter Grant was born in 1770 in Berwick, Maine. He was a fourth generation descendent of an earlier Peter Grant, born in Scotland in 1631, and one of 3,000 Scots taken prisoner by Cromwell’s army at the Battle of Dunbar. In 1650, he was sent as a convict laborer to the iron works in Lynn, Massachusetts, for a term of seven years. A number of the Grant family settled in Berwick, Maine, and from there, Peter, builder of this house, and his father, Capt. Samuel Grant, moved to Gardiner. Peter Grant soon involved himself successfully in land speculation and shipping in the area. In 1796 he and a group of associates, purchased a large tract of land along the west shore of the Kennebec River, which later became Farmingdale. Grant became sole owner of better than 200-acres of this land in 1800 and built a substantial house soon after. The original house was destroyed by fire and was replaced by Grant with the present house in 1830 six years before his death in 1836.