The area around the Rock Creek basin where Kensington is now found was primarily agricultural until 1873, when the B&O Railroad completed a 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.
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 notoriety 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 MARC train derailed adjacent to the town center when the tracks separated at an overheated seam, sending over a hundred victims to area hospitals. Fortunately, there were no fatalities. Then, tragically, 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.)
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.3 square kilometres (0.5 square miles), all land.
While the town proper is but one-half square mile in size, the Kensington Post Office services a much larger area and extends into North Bethesda, MD and the Wheaton Planning District. Residents within this ZIP code (20895) generally refer to Kensington as their home town.
There were 729 households out of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.3% were married couples living together, 6.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.9% were non-families. 29.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.08.
In the town the population was spread out with 23.5% under the age of 18, 5.0% from 18 to 24, 27.8% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 20.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 88.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.6 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $76,716, and the median income for a family was $96,394. Males had a median income of $65,804 versus $41,364 for females. The per capita income for the town was $35,919. About 0.9% of families and 2.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including none of those under age 18 and 1.3% of those age 65 or over.
During the warmer months, the Town of Kensington hosts a farmer's market on Saturday mornings between 8am and noon at the historical train station which is still in use today as part of the MARC commuter train network. The town is also home to the Noyes Library for Young Children
Kensington has a four-member council, elected for two-year terms. Terms are staggered. Every year there are two council seats up for election.
The current council members are:
Public schools that serve Kensington include:
Kensington, a Picture History. Kensington (MD), Kensington Business District Association, 1994.