to Our Town
Kensington covers a wide area with many distinctive neighborhoods. Kensington’s origins and character are most readily found in the Kensington Historic District, where you will find many notable features that embody the area’s history and that link us to the Town’s past.
Well before Kensington came into being in the late 19th century, the land had gone through numerous owners and a few name changes. Yet for much of the time, land deeds continued to mark a parcel’s relationship to the original “Joseph’s Park,” the land first owned by Colonel William Joseph in the late 17th century. On the west, the border of Joseph’s Park is about 4 winding miles of Rock Creek, going from Chevy Chase on the south up well past Parkwood. The northern border goes from Rock Creek east past what is now the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Georgia Avenue. The Town of Kensington lies in the northwest corner of the old Joseph’s Park, which was comprised of 4,220 acres-more than 6 1/2 square miles.
The Town of Kensington was chartered in 1894. At that time it included more than a dozen subdivisions developed in the late 1870’s and 1880’s, as well as the Kensington Park subdivision of 1890. Today, the Kensington Postal Zone is a wide-ranging area that includes Chevy Chase View, Homewood, Rock Creek Hills, Byeford Knolls, Kensington Heights, part of Parkwood, Rock Creek Highlands, the Town of Kensington, and many other communities.
The Railroad comes and "Kensington Station" emerges
In 1873 the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad built the Metropolitan Branch, connecting Washington with Point of Rocks, Maryland. The railroad tracks crossed farm land owned by Daniel Brown, George Duvall, George Knowles, and Alfred Ray.
A station was built at the point where the railroad tracks crossed the old roadway-now called, at various points, Cedar Lane, Howard Avenue, St. Paul Street, and University Boulevard.
“Knowles Station,” as the area became known, was subdivided and various parcels were sold after the deaths of George Knowles and his wife Luraner. The farmland began a rapid conversion to a small community. The lots were desirable due to their closeness to the railway and the improved public road. By 1880, Knowles Station had a population of 70, and twelve trains made the run each day. The growing settlement soon had two stores, a post office, and a blacksmith shop.
Like trains today, the trains of that early era offered passengers some choices of tickets and rates. A ticket for the 11-mile trip from Knowles Station to downtown Washington cost 35 cents. Or you could buy an excursion ticket, a monthly ticket, a school ticket, a quarterly ticket, or a family ticket.
The present Kensington station was built in 1891, making it the second oldest B&O station still in active use in Montgomery County. MARC rail took over service of the old B&O in 1974. Ten of the original 20 remaining Montgomery County stations still operate today. With commuters still using trains to get to work, the old Kensington train station is a daily reminder of Kensington’s rich history.
Another treasure from Kensington’s history is the Noyes Library, at Carroll Place and Montgomery Avenue, built in1893. Now a children’s library, Noyes was the first public library in the entire metropolitan area.
It’s hard to imagine a time when you couldn’t easily go to a community library to borrow the latest novel, look up information about the world around us, or browse through the latest periodicals. But if you had been living in the Washington area a century ago, none of these would have been a simple task. Public libraries did not exist, and most people lacked the money or the space to keep their own home collection of reading materials.
Many farsighted Kensington residents were determined to change that situation. Two played crucial roles: Crosby Noyes, editor and publisher of the Washington Evening Star, and Brainard Warner, one of the developers of the original Town of Kensington. They built the library where it stands today and stocked it with books.
Originally operated as a community library under a private board of trustees, the Noyes Library became part of the countywide public library system in 1951. In 1970, it became the county’s first and only children’s library. Its special mission: to develop innovative ideas and programs to share with the children’s rooms in other libraries; to build a special collection highlighting recreation, creativity, and enrichment; and to provide outreach to children who cannot easily attend public library programs. The Noyes Children’s Library Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises money to help support the operations of the Noyes Library.
THE WOMAN’S CLUB OF KENSINGTON
THE HISTORY OF OUR CLUB
On October 20, 1899, a handful of Victorian ladies gathered in Kensington to plan a mutual improvement organization for women. Membership was limited to thirty, a manageable number for meeting in homes. Having obtained their husbands permission to join, this band of activists set out to learn about the world, to improve their community and to possibly even vote in real elections.
In march 1900, the Kensington group joined the State Federation of Woman’s Clubs and four years later became affiliated with the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs. Both Federations orchestrate social programs favored by women and comprise the largest organization for women worldwide today.
Over the decades, the community came to realize and appreciate the efforts of the Kensington Club. They voted unanimously to call themselves women, not ladies. Their work began with cleaning up the town — even purchasing its first trash container. Then they got interested in the schools. The segregated Kengar School had no running water, no kitchen for student lunches and inadequate supplies. The club bought books, helped tutor children, made lunches and finally helped establish a school cafeteria. Noyes Library has continuously been a club project.
During both World Wars, Club members pitched in by knitting, gardening, and raising money for War Bonds. In the Forties, they worked at the Red Cross canteen, wrote to members of the armed forces overseas and raised money to help supply a fighter plane named “The Kensington Woman’s Club”.
As the Woman’s Club of Kensington begins its second century, its earnest endeavors continue. While the borders of the town have broadened over the years, the women still meet in members homes as the gather to work on the issues of today.