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Gardner is a city in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 20,228 at the 2010 census. Gardner is home to Dunn State Park, Gardner Heritage State Park, Lake Wampanoag Wildlife Sanctuary, and Mount Wachusett Community College.
Named in honor of Col. Thomas Gardner, the community was first settled in 1764 and officially incorporated as a town in 1785 after receiving land grants from the surrounding towns of Ashburnham, Westminster, Templeton and Winchendon. Dating from about 1805, it became a center for lumber and furniture industries. Gardner is known as the "Chair City" and "The Furniture Capital of New England", due to its long history in furniture production. By 1910 it had 20 chair factories which produced 4 million chairs per year. It was also noted for silversmithing. The Gardner State Colony for the Insane pioneered the use of cottage residences. Gardner was incorporated as a city in 1923.
Gardner is the birthplace of Heywood-Wakefield furniture, dating from 1826 when the five Heywood brothers began to fashion furniture in a barn near their father's farm. Brothers Walter, Levi, Seth, Benjamin and William began that year making wooden chairs. In the early years, Walter fashioned chairs by hand, also using a foot lathe. He was soon joined by his brothers Levi and Benjamin, part-time, while running a nearby country store. A new store was built across the street from the original store. In 1831 Levi moved to Boston where he established an outlet store to sell the chairs, while Benjamin and William remained in Gardner to manufacture the chairs. A fire destroyed the Heywoods' chair shop in 1834. In 1835 the partnership of B. F. Heywood & Co. was formed, composed of Benjamin, Walter and William, with Moses Wood and James W. Gates. Gardner was also the home of the Conant-Ball furniture factory. Nichols & Stone Chair Company traces their origin to 1762 in Westminster, Massachusetts. The company moved to Gardner at the turn of the 20th century. As of July 2008, it was announced they would terminate production. The Nichols & Stone name, the intellectual property and the design rights were purchased by the L. & J.G. Stickley of Manlius, New York.
The seal of Gardner was designed in 1922 by native-born illustrator Walter Harrison Cady. According to the city code, the seal shows a portrayal of Col. Thomas Gardner standing in front of Crystal Lake with Mount Monadnock in the background. Within five smaller circles we see a chair, representing the importance of the furniture industry to the city's economy, as well as the letters W, W, A, and T, representing the surrounding towns of Westminster, Winchendon, Ashburnham, and Templeton which all contributed land to the city at its founding.
Gardner is located at 42°34′26″N 71°59′27″W (42.573920, -71.990818).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 23.0 square miles (60 km2), of which 22.2 square miles (57 km2) is land and 0.8 square miles (2.1 km2), or 3.52%, is water. Gardner is situated on Crystal Lake. The highest point in the city is the summit of Reservoir Hill, close to the center of the city, with an elevation of over 1,280 feet (390 m) above sea level.
Gardner is bordered by Winchendon and Ashburnham to the north, Westminster to the east, Hubbardston to the south, and Templeton to the west, all in Massachusetts.
As of the census of 2000, there were 20,770 people, 8,282 households, and 5,085 families residing in the city. The population density was 936.0 people per square mile (361.4/km²). There were 8,838 housing units at an average density of 398.3 per square mile (153.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.13% White, 2.29% African American, 0.34% Native American, 1.37% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 1.22% from other races, and 1.58% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.08% of the population. 19.6% were of French Canadian, 17.6% French, 12.7% Irish, 6.7% English, 6.3% Polish and 6.2% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 8,282 households out of which 30.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.4% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.6% were non-families. 32.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the city, the population was spread out with 23.7% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 31.8% from 25 to 44, 20.7% from 45 to 64, and 16.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 105.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,334, and the median income for a family was $47,164. Males had a median income of $35,804 versus $26,913 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,624. About 7.0% of families and 9.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.8% of those under age 18 and 11.7% of those age 65 or over.
The town is home to Gardner High School, which has a student population of about 800.
The public library in Gardner opened in 1885. The original library building is now a museum of Gardner's history. In fiscal year 2008, the city of Gardner spent 1.84% ($734,164) of its budget on its public library—some $35 per person.
Public transportation for Gardner is largely supplied by the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MART). MART operates local fixed-route bus services, shuttle services, as well as paratransit services within the Montachusett Region.
Beginning in 1871, the Boston, Barre and Gardner Railroad provided rail service to the town. Gardner station was the terminus of the MBTA's Fitchburg Line from 1980 to 1986, but the line was cut back to Fitchburg at the beginning of 1987. MART began weekday van service from Gardner to the new Wachusett terminus of the Fitchburg line in 2016.
Gardner was a filming location for the 1992 movie School Ties.
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