KENSINGTON NATIVE Susan
Houser grew up near the town mill. It
wasn’t Plyers Mill, though, as in the Plyers Mill Road that runs from east to west
through the center of town. There probably never was such a place.
In the late 19th century, Plyers Mill
Road was the byway from Wheaton
Postmaster George Plyer’s property to
the Newport Mill on Rock Creek, about a
half mile from the center of Kensington.
There was, however, a small, fam-
ily-run grain mill in town—Wheatley
Mill—and Houser, 69, remembered it
well. Although the mill and its water-
wheel were no longer running during
her childhood, they still stood on St.
Paul Street near the intersection with
Farragut Avenue. Kensington Branch, a
tributary of Rock Creek, flowed past the
wooden mill building, which was eventually torn down and replaced by a private home.
“All of the neighborhood children
loved to play, wade and fish in the [Kens-
ington Branch] creek,” Houser recalled.
In the 1930s and ’40s, Howard Avenue
was the town’s “main street,” with a small
grocery store, McKeever’s ice cream par-
lor and the two-room Kensington Bank.
Across the street was the Baltimore &
Ohio Railroad station. Houser walked
with her mother to Kensington’s modest,
but handsome, Noyes Library (today, the
county’s only library exclusively for children). Built in 1893, the building got
its name from an endowment of 1,600
books by Evening Star newspaper pub-
lisher Crosby S. Noyes.
Houser literally lived on the other side
of the railroad tracks from the affluent
part of town with its attractive Victorian
homes. The train line was the reason the
community began to grow in the years
just after the Civil War. The town was
then called Knowles Station, after George
Knowles, a farmer who sold some of the
land to the railroad company.
The Knowles Station stop allowed
farmers in the area to send goods to
Washington and the first commuters to
ride to work. Yet the population in 1880
was no more than about 70.
The tiny community began to take
off in 1890 after Washington financier Brainard H. Warner bought several
parcels south of the railroad line and
recorded a subdivision he named “
Kensington Park,” after the London suburb
Warner built handsome houses in a
verdant setting that served as a summer
retreat for Washington’s well-to-do. The
styles included Queen Anne Georgian
Revival, Victorian Cottage and Dutch
Colonial, with wraparound porches,
stained-glass windows and curving brick
sidewalks. The area was listed in 1980 on
the U.S. Interior Department’s National
Register of Historic Places as exemplifying a Victorian-era community. PH
BY STEVE DRYDEN All aboard
This is what Connecticut Avenue looked like in 1902, looking
south past the old Warner Memorial Presbyterian Church..
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