Fred Gardner was born on April 16, 1880 on the family farm in Jamesville, just south of Syracuse, N.Y. He graduated in the first class of the new Jamesville High School in 1899. In 1902 Fred Gardner moved to New York where he entered the Pratt Institute’s Architectural School in Brooklyn. Upon graduation he became a registered architect and worked briefly for a Long Island Architectural firm before starting his lifelong career as an architectural planner and designer for the New York City Board of Transportation. He was hired in 1907 and spent 34 years working in the architectural design office that planned much of the city‚s expanding subway system.
From 1908 to 1933, Fred also taught evening art classes in architectural drawing at the Brooklyn Technical Evening School and other institutions. In one of his evening classes he met Adelaide Morris, a Brooklyn girl eighteen years his junior, whom he later married and who participated in many of the exhibitions where Gardner showed. At his recommendation Adelaide got a job as a topographic draftswoman with the Board of Transportation (the only woman in an office of 90 men), but because of the strict rules against employing husband and wife in the same municipal office, they either delayed their marriage or kept it quiet for years.