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!

Sedgwick House // 1785

Built in 1785, the Sedgwick House on Main Street in Stockbridge, MA, is the oldest of several Federal mansions built in town after the Revolution. Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813), one of the early lawyers of Berkshire County, moved to Stockbridge in 1785 and built this house. From 1796 to 1799 he was a Senator in the federal government, and declined a position of Secretary of the Treasury offered by George Washington. Before this, when a House Representative, he was nominated the fourth Speaker of the House. An ardent Federalist, Theodore retired from the national arena upon Thomas Jefferson’s election. Sedgwick was also a member of an early abolitionist society organized in Pennsylvania in 1775 and played a key role in abolishing slavery in Massachusetts by his win in the case of Bett v. Ashley. In this case, Sedgwick served as attorney of Mum Bet (also known as Elizabeth Freeman) an enslaved woman in nearby Sheffield and argued that slavery was inconsistent with the 1780 Massachusetts State Constitution, and won. Bet became the first enslaved African American to file and win a freedom suit in Massachusetts, effectively abolishing slavery in the state. She was later buried in the Sedgwick Family burial plot in Stockbridge. The home was later owned and occupied by Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Theodore’s daughter, who became one of nineteenth-century America‚Äôs most prolific women writers. She published six novels, two biographies, eight works for children, novellas, over 100 pieces of short prose and other works.