🇺🇸 Gardiner is a city in Kennebec County, Maine, United States. Popular with tourists, Gardiner is noted for its culture and old architecture. Gardiner is a nationally accredited Main Street America community. It is included in the Augusta, Maine micropolitan New England City and Town Area.
Located at the head of navigation on the Kennebec River, Gardiner was founded as Gardinerstown Plantation in 1754 by Dr. Silvester Gardiner, a prominent Boston physician. Dr. Gardiner had made a fortune as a drug merchant, with one apothecary shop in Massachusetts and two in Connecticut, and became a principal proprietor of the Kennebec Purchase within the old Plymouth Patent. He proved a tireless promoter for his development, which once comprised over 100,000 acres (400 km2).
Dr. Gardiner induced a gristmill builder, saw millwright, house carpenter and wheelwright to settle here, as well as a man he enslaved named Isaac "Hazard" Stockbridge. Houses, mills, a church and a blockhouse were built. Situated at the confluence of the Kennebec River and Cobbosseecontee Stream, which has falls that drop 130 feet, the location was recognised by him as ideal for water-powered mills. Gardinerstown, set off from Pittston in 1760, became centre of the regional economy.
The wilderness toils of Dr. Gardiner would end, however, with the Revolution. Loyal to the Crown, he fled Boston in 1776 when the British army evacuated. But his settlement lived on without him, and in 1803 was incorporated as the town of Gardiner. From the early 19th century until the Civil War, shipbuilding and trade were primary industries. It would become a city in 1849, at which time ten large riverfront wharves served shipping. Lumber, in vast quantities, passed through Gardiner. Tanneries and shoe factories prospered.
The city became known worldwide for exporting ice. Each winter men cut large blocks from the Kennebec River, then covered the ice with sawdust in warehouses to keep it frozen into summer. It was loaded year-round on large vessels for shipment throughout the United States and world. Gardiner was noted for its pristine Kennebec ice, harvested at the furthest point upriver that deep-draft vessels could reach. In 1851, the city was connected by railroad. One of the first workable steam automobiles in America was built in Gardiner in 1858. Beginning in the 1860s, paper mills flourished, as did the commercial ice industry between the 1880s and 1920s. By the 1960s, however, many mills declined and closed, sending Gardiner's economy plummeting. The former mill town is now largely a bedroom community for people who work in Augusta, the state's capital, as well as Bath Iron Works in Bath. Some residents commute as far as the Portland area. The city is endowed with a great deal of antique architecture, much of it beautifully restored. In 1980, the entire downtown historic district became one of the National Register of Historic Places listings in Kennebec County, Maine.
Gardiner is located south of Augusta on the west side of the Kennebec River at the confluence of the Cobbesseeconte Stream. Randolph lies just across the river.
Gardiner has a population of over 5,961 people. Gardiner also forms part of the wider Kennebec County which has a population of over 123,642 people. Gardiner is situated near Augusta.