The City of Gardiner Offering a host of eating, drinking, entertainment, touring, and sporting options, Gardiner is a wondrous, somewhat undiscovered, pearl of an historic central Maine city. Spend a few days and lose yourself in her charm and warmth. Browse the suggestions below on how to fill your calendar during your stay.

Architectural Tour Gardiner is an historic city on the banks of the Kennebec River with a rich inventory of architectural treasures. A leisurely drive through residential neighborhoods is a celebration of Victorian splendor. Water Street, the downtown, remains largely unchanged from its heyday. Try the E.A. Robinson Self Guided Walking Tour. Some specific noteworthy buildings around Gardiner include:
Outdoors Gardiner has a spacious waterfront park on the Kennebec River and a running/biking trail that follows the river as far north as Augusta. River tours are offered by local guides, which combine scenery with rich tales of river drivers, ice harvesting, and riverside mills. The Town Common of Gardiner is a large historic park at a minutes walk from The Stone Turret.
Food and Drink Gardiner offers a variety of restaurants and bars to cater to all budgets and tastes, and many of them in historic buildings in the downtown at an easy walk from The Stone Turret.
  • The historic Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center offers a line-up of shows.
  • The City of Gardiner hosts a series of events including art and food festivals, which are always well attended. Come join the fun.

Shopping Gardiner is fast becoming a Mecca for artists and crafts people. Art galleries, antique stores, and a craft center offer many options for original, local treasures.

Pampering Unwinding after a busy day is easy in Gardiner. Choose from a variety of options for massage, healing, and primping to fit any budget!

History of Gardiner 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. Houses, mills, a church and a blockhouse were built. Situated at the confluence of the Kennebec River and Cobbesseecontee Stream, which has falls that drop 130 feet over a mile, the location was recognized by him as ideal for water-powered mills. Gardinerstown, set off from Pittston in 1760, became center 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 well 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 suffered decline and closure. 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.
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Around Gardiner A number of scenic and historic places of interests are easily accessible from Gardiner.
  • Hallowell
  • Camden
  • Rockport
  • Brunswick
  • Portland