Kensington Walking Tour
Tour Kensington visiting historical landmarks like the Warner Circle Park, Noyes Library, and Antique Row
The Kensington Volunteer Fire Department was established in the late 1890s in response to multiple severe fires in the Kensington area that could not be put out. The current building at the intersection of Plyers Mills Road and Connecticut Avenue was constructed in 1947, after moving out of the Town Hall/Armory. The Fire Department also had two memorials to the tragedies of 9/11, with a gnarled steel beam from New York to memorialize firefighters who lost their lives, and a limestone boulder from the Pentagon to memorialize victims of the Pentagon and all those on Flight 93.
Kensington's "Antique Row," the earliest business and commercial district in town, stretches along Howard Avenue. Shops sprang up around the train station, since the steady flow of traffic was good for business. These buildings have housed a vast and ever-changing array of businesses over the decades: grocery stores, offices, antique stores, clinics, dry cleaners, diners, and more. For example, 3716 Howard Avenue was built in 1895 for the Mongomery Press, a local newspaper, but in later years, it served as a doctor's office, veterinary clinic, and antique store. The area is now primarily known for its antique shops.
Kensington's small railroad station was built in 1891, making it the country's second oldest still-active train station. The station originally operated by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, was first named "Knowles Station" after the farmland owned by George Knowles which the station was located on. Later, when a community named Kensington sprung up around the railroad, the station was renamed. Its designer E. Francis Baldwin was the B&O's top architect at the time, creating hundreds of buildings over his long career (though many no longer survive). The station's "Stick Style" design is highly practical, featuring large overhanging eaves that shelter waiting passengers from sun, rain, and snow. However, compared to the B&O stations at Rockville and Silver Spring, the station lacks fine detailing due to financial struggles at the time. Kensington is around 11 miles from Washington D.C., and back in the late 19th century, city residents could travel from Washington's Union Station to Kensington for around 35 cents. Maryland state-run MARC commuter trains now connect the two places after taking over B&O passenger service in 1974. The station parking lot now hosts the Kensington Farmers' Market on Saturdays and continues to serve as a community symbol and gathering place.
The gas station at Howard Avenue and Armory Avenue was constructed in 1926 by Howard L Derrick. Originally operating as the Derrick Motor Company, this gas station consisted only of the covered drive-through and roof, although later, the adjacent garage for repairs was added, and the office was expanded. The gas station was once part of the Esso chain and is now home to an independent service station. The building is an official Maryland one of the last remaining examples of a style of 1920s gas station architecture and is listed on the Maryland Historic Trust.
Built in 1927 as a National Guard Armory, this striking brick building features symmetrical towers and battlements that give it the appearance of a fortress. The Volunteer Fire Department also occupied part of the space from 1927 until 1946. In its relatively short lifespan, this structure has also housed the National Guard firing range, a bowling alley, theater and musical performances, offices for the Maryland DMV, dance classes, a toy museum, and more. Currently, this site serves as Kensington Town Hall and houses the Kensington Historical Society Archives.
Located in the Kensington Historic District, Warner Circle Park contains a Queen Anne Style house, the former home of Brainard Warner, and a 1914 carriage house. Warner was a banker and real estate broker who established the town of Kensington as a pleasant summer retreat and suburb of D.C. The house served as a private residence for several decades and became a nursing home in the 1960s. Across the street is Noyes Children's Library, founded in 1893 by Brainard Warner and Crosby Noyes.
In 1893, Noyes Library opened its doors as a library for the town of Kensington, which at that time was home to around 80 residents. It sits on a small triangle of land donated by Brainard Warner, who lived in the large manor house nearby. Warner and his friend Crosby Noyes, editor of the Washington Evening Star, founded the library together, with Noyes supplying many of the books--around 600 to get the collection started. Since 1972, Noyes has been a children's library that hosts events, performances, and story times.
Kensington Cabin Park has occupied this 4.3-acre space for several decades, and its log cabin dates to the early 1930s. For years, this building served as a community center and was enjoyed by countless children attending summer camps. The park was acquired by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 1949. The park also includes tennis courts, a basketball court, a playground, and a picnic area. The cabin was closed in 1991 and restored in 2018 so that it may be open to the public again. Upon its reopening, the cabin was renamed after Janet H. Planck, Kensington's mayor from 1974 to 1982.