Kensington’s early history is reflected in the Victorian architectural vision of Brainard Warner, known as the “founder of Kensington,” although there was a vibrant farming community here previous to Warner’s arrival. Take the Kensington Historical Society’s self-guided Walking Tour of Kensington, showcasing many beautiful homes and historic sites. View the Warner Mansion and its surrounding open space. Enjoy the historic one-room Noyes Library, now a unique children’s library. Be sure to visit the still-operating train station to find out why Kensington is known as a town “where the train still stops and the people still walk.”
The area around the Rock Creek basin where Kensington now sits was largely agricultural in 1873, when the B&O Railroad completed a rail line which crossed Montgomery County. The community flourished at the spot where the railroad line intersected the old Bethesda~to~Bladensburg Road. This early settlement initially was known as Knowles Station. In the early 1890s, Warner, a Washington financier, purchased parcels of land to build a planned “garden” community, and established a public library, with the help of Crosby Noyes, and a newspaper, with the help of Cornelius Clum. Inspired by a recent trip to London, Warner named his subdivision Kensington Park. In 1894, the town was incorporated as the Town of Kensington.
Kensington continued to develop as a summer refuge for Washington residents wishing to escape the capital’s humid summers. As years passed, it became a year-round home for all of its residents. The large, southernmost section originally mapped out by Warner remains largely unchanged since its inception, and is an Historic District protected by the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission.
A necessity in any town, a bank was established in 1908 where one continues to flourish today, strategically located across from the train station, The town continued to grow with the installation of sidewalks, sewers, asphalt streets, construction of shops, and grocery stores. In 1938 the Connecticut Avenue bridge over the railroad tracks was built and then widened in 1952. New development came to town with the end of WW II. The commercial area around the Firehouse was developed by the 1950’s, and by 1959 the shopping center at Connecticut and Knowles was established. During this period Metropolitan Avenue evolved from a quiet residential street to a bustling commercial area. In the 1960’s Antique Village was created along Howard Avenue and the offices at 10400 Connecticut Avenue were built. In 1976 the Town purchased the Armory for their offices. This 1927 building is now the only remaining armory of that vintage in the County, and also serves as a center for two theater companies and many community activities. In 1977 the Kensington Historical Society was formed and was instrumental in putting part of the town on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The town continues to be known for its “Victorian Garden” atmosphere.
Revitalization projects improved the shopping areas of Metropolitan and Howard Avenues, and by 2001 the familiar cement plant across from the train station closed, giving the town the chance to add more parking on Metropolitan Avenue. In 2007 Warner Circle, in the center of the Historic District, was purchased through the Montgomery County Legacy Open Space Program making the land around the mansion a County Park.
For more information about Kensington’s history go to KensingtonHistory.org