KENSINGTON NATIVE SusanHouser grew up near the town mill. Itwasn’t Plyers Mill, though, as in the Ply-ers Mill Road that runs from east to westthrough the center of town. There prob-ably never was such a place.
In the late 19th century, Plyers MillRoad was the byway from WheatonPostmaster George Plyer’s property tothe Newport Mill on Rock Creek, about ahalf mile from the center of Kensington.
There was, however, a small, fam-
ily-run grain mill in town—Wheatley
Mill—and Houser remembers it well.
Although the mill and its waterwheelwere no longer running during herchildhood, they still stood on St. PaulStreet near the intersection with Farra-gut Avenue. Kensington Branch, a trib-utary of Rock Creek, flowed past thewooden mill building, which was even-tually torn down and replaced by a pri-vate 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 walkedwith her mother to Kensington’s modest,but handsome, Noyes Library (today, thecounty’s only library exclusively for chil-dren). Built in 1893, the building gotits name from an endowment of 1,600
books by Evening Star newspaper pub-
lisher Crosby S. Noyes.
Houser literally lived on the other sideof the railroad tracks from the affluentpart of town with its attractive Victorianhomes. The train line was the reason thecommunity began to grow in the yearsjust after the Civil War. The town wasthen called Knowles Station, after GeorgeKnowles, a farmer who sold some of theland 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 takeoff in 1890 after Washington finan-cier Brainard H. Warner bought severalparcels south of the railroad line andrecorded a subdivision he named “Kens-ington Park,” after the London suburbKensington Gardens.
Warner built handsome houses in a
BY STEVE DRYDEN All aboard
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 exemplify-
ing a Victorian-era community. PH
This is what Connecticut Avenue looked like in 1902, looking
south past the old Warner Memorial Presbyterian Church..
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