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!

Dr. Gertrude Heath House // c.1850

Constructed c. 1850, this Gothic Revival house in Farmingdale, Maine, has many identifying features common in the style: a symmetrical facade, steeply pitched gable, and lancet windows in the front gable. Besides its architectural significance, the home is also historically significant as the home of Dr. Gertrude Heath. Gertrude Emma Heath (1859-1935) was born in Gardiner, Maine in January 1859. When Gertrude was just three years old, after the American Civil War began, her father died in battle at Fredericksburg, leaving his widow Sarah to run the family affairs. She excelled in school and received her early education in the public schools of Gardiner, afterward attending Hahnemann Medical College at Chicago, Illinois, taking special courses. She graduated from this institution in 1883 with the degree of Doctor of Medicine, and began medical practice in Chicago in 1884, moving back home within that year. Soon after returning to Maine, she accepted a position at the Maine State Hospital, at Augusta, where she specialized in eye and ear conditions. It is amazing learning stories about such strong women, when at the time, women medical practitioners were almost unheard of and women were decades away from earning the right to vote.