Historical Perspectives

As you wander through Gardiner’s historic district, you’ll visit locales described in a series of charming and informative interpretive signage reproduced here in pdf form. You’ll learn the story of our city, from Dr. Sylvester Gardiner’s 18th century development of the first mills on the Cobbossee Stream through the growth of a burgeoning fishing, shipbuilding and trade industry – and a dynamic city culture – in the 250 years that followed.

Click an image to view or download pdfs of the interpretive signage to be installed at the Gardiner Waterfront Park (funded by the Savings Bank of Maine’s Charitable Foundation).

Native Americans
The Abenaki people were residents of the Kennebec River valley long before Europeans arrived, and their culture and traditions are not forgotten as we trace Gardiner’s progress.

 

 

Historic Gardiner
Dr. Sylvester Gardiner established the first settlement here in 1754, harnessing the water power of the Cobbosseecontee Stream for the industrial boom that would characterize the City for the next two centuries.

 

 

Logging & Lumber
In the mid-19th century, logging and sawmills played a key role in the growing Gardiner economy.

 

 

Ice industry
From the 1880s to the 1920s, the City of Gardiner became world-famous for exporting ice harvested from the Kennebec River.

 

 

River Transportation
Gardiner’s busy riverfront connected the City to all of the east coast, and to sea routes around the world.

 

 

RR & Trolly
Rail transportation served Gardener citizens and businesses from 1851 until 1960, when passenger service was discontinued.

 

 

Poets & Musicians
Edwin Arlington Robinson, Laura E. Richards, Kate Vannah and Dr. Gertrude Heath all made major contributions to American culture from their homes in Gardiner in the late 1800s and early 20th century.

 

 

Floods
Life in Gardiner was disrupted violently when the Kennebec overflowed its banks in 1896. 1936, and most recently in 1987.

 

 

Bridges
Three different bridges have spanned the Kennebec River to and from Gardiner: a covered bridge erected in 1853, the Gardiner-Randolph Bridge built in 1896, and a modern steel and concrete bridge developed in 1978.

 

 

Water Street North & South
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Water Street’s distinctive multi-story brick buildings still define Gardiner’s bustling commercial and retail character today.