Kensington, Maryland

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Kensington is a town in Montgomery County, Maryland, United States. The population was 1,873 at the 2000 census. Greater Kensington encompasses the entire 20895 zip code and its population is an order of magnitude larger than that of the town at its center.



The area around the Rock Creek basin where Kensington is located was primarily agricultural until 1873, when the B&O Railroad completed the Metropolitan Branch which traversed Montgomery County. A community arose where the new railroad line intersected the old Rockville-to-Bladensburg road. This early settlement was first known as Knowles Station. In the early 1890s, Washington, D.C. developer Brainard Warner began purchasing land parcels to build a planned Victorian community, complete with church, library, and a local newspaper. Fascinated by a recent trip to London, Warner first named his town Kensington Park. Upon incorporation in 1894, the town was renamed Kensington. The historic core of Kensington was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as the Kensington Historic District in 1980.[1]

Initially Kensington was a summer refuge for Washington, D.C., residents wishing to escape the capital's humid summers. As years passed and its residents increasingly remained year round, Kensington evolved into a commuter suburb. The large southernmost section originally mapped out by Warner remains largely unchanged since inception, and is a historically preserved zone. Indeed the only major changes in the town's basic layout have been the bridging over of the original railroad crossing in 1937, and the extension and widening of Connecticut Avenue, the town's main thoroughfare, in 1957.

The little town gained national attention three times in a 10-month span early in the 21st century as a result of events which occurred within a mere quarter-mile radius. In December 2001, the town responded to complaints from anonymous citizens by banning Santa Claus from the annual holiday parade. Protesters arrived at the parade en masse, including hundreds of Santas riding everything from motorcycles to fire trucks. Eight months later, a Amtrak train derailed adjacent to the town center when the tracks separated at an overheated joint, sending over a hundred victims to area hospitals. Fortunately, there were no fatalities. Then, on October 2, 2002, Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera became the fifth victim of the snipers who terrorized the Washington area that month, while cleaning her auto at a Kensington gas station. (See Beltway sniper attacks.)

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