The Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously tonight to recommend to the Montgomery County Planning Board that the Kensington Cabin be added to the county’s Locational Atlas of Historic Sites and that the property be designated in the Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation. The HPC serves in an advisory capacity and makes recommendations to the Planning Board; final designation decisions are made by the County Council.
Kensington Cabin is located in Kensington Cabin Park, at the intersection of Everett Street and Kensington Parkway. “The cabin is comfortably situated in a picturesque setting, which includes Silver Creek, a tributary of Rock Creek,” wrote the Kensington Historical Society in the research form appended to its application for designation. Closed since 1991, the cabin once was a community center where birthday parties and weddings were held. Local schoolchildren played at the cabin after classes and during summers according to oral histories collected by the historical society.
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), the Montgomery County Planning and Parks departments’ parent agency, built the one-story cabin in 1934. According to the HPC designation documentation, the cabin was the county’s local interpretation of log cabin revival architecture spreading throughout the nation’s parks via the National Park Service. Recently dubbed “parkitecture” by historic preservationists, this architectural style was meant to evoke a rustic feeling in park settings by drawing on familiar architectural motifs like log cabins using local materials in their construction.
Kensington Historical Society president Julia O’Malley and volunteer researcher Jennifer Gurney testified on behalf of the nomination. Using slides to illustrate her testimony, Gurney said the cabin was important for its architecture and its associations with the county parks system. “Perhaps most important to the history of Kensington Cabin are the almost 60 years of community activities it housed,” she said.
In addition to the designation proponents, Kensington resident John Doherty testified to support the designation. He told the commission that he and three generations of his family have lived in Kensington for 35 years and all of them at some point in their lives have used the park and its facilities.
Research & Designation Coordinator Clare Kelly summarized the report she prepared for the HPC recommending designation. According to the report, the cabin is historically significant because of its associations with Montgomery County history and its architecture. County code requires that properties designated in the Master Plan for Historic Preservation meet at least one of nine criteria. Historic preservation staff recommended that the cabin be designated under four criteria:
Kelly entered into the record the Kensington Historical Society materials and correspondence received prior to the hearing. According to Kelly, Kensington resident Del. Al Carr (D-Dist. 18) wrote a letter supporting the designation. After a brief round of deliberations and hearing no testimony opposing the designation, the seven members present voted unanimously to recommend to the Planning Board that the Kensington Cabin be added to the Locational Atlas as an interim measure bringing it under HPC regulatory review and recommended that the Planning Board send the designation to the County Council for listing in the Historic Preservation Master Plan.
Full Disclosure: I served on the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission from March 2004 through February 2010.