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IN August, 1896, the trustees of the Union Club bought the house numbered Seven Park Street, adjoining their Club House. The land whereon this building stands was sold by the town agents, March 24, 1801, to Thomas Handasyd Perkins, a prominent merchant and humanitarian. For half a century he maintained a fine estate in Brookline, where, under the supervision of foreign expert gardeners, he took great interest in the cultivation of choice plants, fruits, and flowers. Mr. Perkins was the well-known founder of the Massachusetts School for the Blind, or Perkins Institution. He retained the ownership of the Park Street lot for somewhat over a year, and sold it in September, 1802, to John Gore, a Boston merchant. He was of the sixth generation from the emigrant, of the same name, who settled at Roxbury in 1635, and served for many years as Clerk of the Writs. His grandfather, John, of the fourth generation, was a merchant and Loyalist refugee, who accompanied the British troops to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in March, 1776. His citizenship was restored by an Act of the General Court in 1787. He was the father of thirteen children, including Governor Christopher Gore. In a Funeral Sermon preached by the Reverend William Cooper, pastor of Brattle Street Church, Mr. Gore, the refugee, was described as “an ingenious and religious gentleman; an Ornament to his Country, and to the College.” John Gore, the owner of the Park Street estate, was prominent in financial affairs. He was one of the incorporators of the New England National Bank, of Boston, in 1813. His only daughter, Louisa, married Horatio Greenough, the eminent sculptor, and pioneer of the American artists’ colony in Italy.
In August, 1811, Mr. Gore sold the property, which included a brick stable, to Artemas Ward, Esq. (1762-1847), of Boston, a son and namesake of the Revolutionary General, and a prominent jurist. He was a Harvard graduate of 1783; LL.D., 1842; member of Congress; and Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Court of Common Pleas. Mr. Ward began practice as a lawyer about the year 1787, at the time of Shays’s Rebellion, during an unsettled period, when the lawyers were accustomed to carry pistols in their pockets while journeying on their circuits.1 He was occupying this house in 1818; for in September of that year the Selectmen granted him permission to have a well dug in front of his house, and to place a pump over it, “on condition that the pump be well finished and painted, and that there be a good shoe to the same.”
In October, 1848, the executors of Justice Ward’s will conveyed the premises to Henry Joseph Gardner, Esq. (1819-92), a native of Dorchester. A.M., 1851; LL.D., Harvard, 1855. He was educated at private schools in Boston, and at Phillips Exeter Academy. He then joined the Class of 1838 at Bowdoin College, but did not graduate, Mr. Gardner became a member of the firm of Denny, Rice & Gardner, dry-goods merchants, and remained therein until 1876, when he formed a partnership with George Bacon, who dealt in leather and hides. In 1887 he represented the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, as its resident agent in Boston.
During his mercantile career he became interested in municipal affairs, and served four years as a member of the Common Council, and later in the State Legislature. He was also a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1853, and Governor of Massachusetts for three years (1855-57).
Mr. Gardner was the candidate of the Know-Nothing Party, whose principal doctrine was expressed by the phrase “America for the Americans.” Its chief aim was the exclusion of foreigners from all public offices.
This party was likened to a vast secret society, with branches in every part of the Union. In many places lodges were instituted, with passwords and mysterious ceremonies. Mr. Gardner was elected with a plurality of more than fifty thousand votes over the Honorable Emory Washburn, his Whig predecessor as Governor.
Next in line of the distinguished owners and occupants of this estate was John Amory Lowell, Esq. (179S-1881), Harvard, 1815; LL.D., 1851; a successful merchant, who was connected with many philanthropic enterprises. He was also a Fellow of the American Academy, and a member of the Linnaean Society of London. By the will of the founder of the Lowell Institute, Mr. Lowell was appointed sole trustee of that Institution. The third codicil of his own will gave to his wife the right to occupy the Park Street house during her life, “free of rent and taxes.”
Finally, as before mentioned, the estate was bought by the Union Club in August, 1896, and reconstructed for the use of its members. A portion of the building was set apart for ladies. “Oh!” wrote Miss Susan Hale in one of her “Letters,” in February, 1898, “The Union Club, you know, has a department for ladies; to wit, in the old Mayflower Rooms. It has been beautifully done over, and is a much more charming place for a meal than our Mayflower. I lunched there several times. They have a Chef, and good food. The Thorndike also has a Chef from Delmonico’s; and all the chops have little tufts on top of them, and layers of peppers beneath. You wouldn’t know a lamb, if you met him thus disguised; but the result is good!” Again, writing from Weimar in 1882, she described the German beds as quite comfortable on top, but very breezy underneath, “where every blast of heaven howls and whistles all night, as they do around Park Street corner!”
1 Our First Men. 1846.Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.