History Project

Kensington Cooperative Nursery School

Kensington Nursery School was the first cooperative nursery school in the Washington metropolitan area and was a founding member of the Council of Co-op Schools. In 1939, when the nursery school idea was still not widely known, a group of Kensington parents formed a cooperative nursery school, the Kensington Play Group. Later, the school's name was changed to The Kensington Cooperative Nursery School.
Kensington Nursery School
With the backing of the Montgomery County Superintendent of Schools, who felt that the project would benefit the whole community, the school obtained its first home in the new Kensington Junior High School. In 1940, the school was forced to vacate its quarters in the junior high school and seek housing elsewhere. Until 1957 classes met in a variety of places in and around Kensington. From the first, it was apparent that temporary quarters were costly and uncertain and cut down the usefulness of the school. In 1940, its second year, the school began to discuss acquiring permanent housing to suit its special needs. The parents began raising funds and putting them aside. In 1955, the school bought outright a 3/4 acre lot in Kensington Heights, to serve as a building site.
 
After raising funds through bonds, ground was broken April 1, 1957, for a modern cinder block structure designed by Alexander Richter, A.I.A., a former member of the school. The building, which was ready for occupancy in September 1957, is particularly well suited to the needs of our cooperative nursery program. The building remained unchanged until the spring of 1968, when a new storage shed was added on the right side of the building. In 1985, parents rolled up their sleeves again to raise the funds needed to replace the large playhouse in the school's yard. A contemporary, four level, 16-foot long timber structure was designed and built over the summer by a group of hardworking KNS families.
 
Enrollment in Kensington Nursery School has varied from 16 to 68, depending on the size of the facilities available. Altogether, more than 1,000 families have been served.
 
For more information, visit their website:
Courtesy of Laura Kervitsky
Farragut Avenue
 

The Nursing Home

 
History of the Nursing Home in Kensington Heights – A Brief Look Backwards
 
Kensington Heights Nursing Home

Kensington Gardens Nursing Center [its name in 2002] was originally opened as a suburban residence or retreat for Christian Scientists, owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. George Long Bricker.  The quiet, restful, informal atmosphere afforded the opportunity for those residing there to recuperate, study, or just retreat.  Nursing care and attention were provided, if desired.  Permanent and temporary guests were welcomed.

 
 
The original estate, totaling 5 acres and 4 buildings, allowed the Brickers to offer their guests home-grown fruits, vegetables, chickens, turkeys, and of course fresh eggs for breakfast.
 
Part of the panorama from the front steps included the lily pond, which is now occupied by the “Little Girl With the Umbrella” fountain and the trout, bass, and blue gill pond near the road.  The Spring House was secluded around the grove, with its stream that follows down along the grove after it leaves the dam,flowing under the road and into the bass and blue gill pond.
Kensington Heights Nursing Home
 
Room rates at that time were “dirt cheap.”  Double was $35 per week, single was $25 per week, private room with private bath was $50 per week, and a private room with semi-private bath was also available.  Rates included room, meals, tray service if desired, and use of all recreational facilities on the premises.
 
The original section of the building was easily recognizable before the current refurbishing and redecoration started.  I am sure the different colored floor and bathroom tiles in the same room has stimulated the curiosity of all who have gazed upon the quaint patterns.  It seems Mr. Bricker was a frugal businessman; he would go to the tile company and buy bits and pieces of leftovers to replace and repair.
 
The fireplaces located in the first floor lounge dining area and the staff dining area in the basement, now of conversation interest only, were the only source of heat for those areas.
 
Two additions have been added onto the original stone structure.  The first was added 25 years ago [1977] and the sections beyond the Smoke Doors on the Azalea and Lilac units, formerly known as the “H” wings, was added 17 years ago [1985].  The majority of theKensington Heights Nursing Home additions were done after the Brickers sold the business to a family by the name of Hoffman.
 
During the Brickers’ time, Kensington Gardens was known as the only “big” nursing home in Maryland.  There was one registered nurse on duty for 24 hours, working a 48+ hour week, and one nursing assistant giving medications and doing treatments as necessary.
 
The Brickers, as well as most of the help, lived on the grounds.  The Brickers lived in the stone house located on the hill, and the help lived in what is now called the “cottage”
Kensington Heights Nursing Home

 located across from the stone house.  Until 6 years ago [1996] the cottage was still used as a dormitory for those who wished to live close to work.

 
Mrs. Bricker contributed to the operation in many ways,  most all of the landscape design and still-life oil paintings that used to hang throughout the building were her handiwork.  One day a week was set aside as “shopping day.”  She and a staff member would go to Grand Union for all-day shopping trip for foodstuffs and staples.
 
It is obvious that time does not stand still, but the Brickers supplied the nucleus from which growth and tradition can continue.
 
 
Courtesy of Edna Young, Scott Colver, Megan Garnett 
Findley Road
 

The Lyon Sisters Disappearance

Lyon Sisters Disappearance Remains Kensington Heights’ Biggest Unsolved Mystery
 
On a warm spring day in 1975, sisters Sheila and Katherine Lyon left Wheaton Plaza and walked toward their Plyer’s Mill Road home. They never arrived, vanishing somewhere in Kensington Heights.
 
The most vexing disappearance in Montgomery County history, the case has been recounted in the National Enquirer and generated hundreds of leads, all of which have culminated in dead ends.
 
On March 25, 1975, Sheila, 12, and her younger sister Katherine, 10, walked along Drumm Avenue and over to Wheaton Plaza to view the Easter displays at the mall and have lunch at the Orange Bowl restaurant. Their older brother saw them in the Orange Bowl eating pizza together around 2 p.m.
 
Longtime Kensington Heights resident James Mann may have been one of the last to see the two girls. He recalls waving to them as they passed his house on the corner of Drumm Avenue and Devin Place that afternoon.  He said they continued down Drumm toward McComas.
 
According to the Missing Persons Cold Case Network, a volunteer-based Web site profiling 3,000 missing persons cases, a friend of the girls also placed the girls near Drumm and Devin Place.
 
Back in 1975, Mann recalled that there was a large wooded area with a cut-through path connecting the two segments of Drumm.  Drumm Court and the newer houses on Drumm were years away from being built.
 
Police and neighbors fanned out across Kensington Heights searching for clues. Mann recalls that police asked permission to search his crawl space, along with those of his neighbors. They also checked the sewer drain on Drumm and dove in the pond at what was then the Kensington Gardens Nursing home.
 
“I wanted to help them in any way I could,” he said. “It was such a tragedy.”
Police ruled out the possibility that the girls had run away because they were younger than most runaways, who are usually found or return within 24 hours. The girls had less than $2 each when they left home and did not take any extra clothing with them.
 
Acting on a tip from a psychic, 135 national guardsmen, as well as a contingent of Montgomery County police combed two square miles of parkland midway between Laytonville and Olney in search of the girls, but never found a clue.
 
One lead given to police was from mall patrons, who saw the girls talking with a tall, white man in a brown suit. The man, thought to be in his 50s, was carrying a briefcase and taped their conversation. Police released a sketch of the man, but he never has been found.
 
A witness in Manassas, Virginia reported seeing two girls resembling Sheila and Katherine bound and gagged in the rear of a beige Ford station wagon on April 7, 1975. The driver of the station wagon resembled the man seen questioning children at the mall. When the driver spotted the witness tailing him, he ran a red light and sped away.
 
In 1987, Montgomery County Police said that the Lyon sisters’ disappearance may be linked to a Virginia man who was suspected in sexual molestations and slayings of children in at least three states.
 
The man, Fred Howard Coffey Jr., was in Montgomery County near Wheaton Plaza on April 1, 1975, seven days after the Lyon girls vanished. He is now serving a life sentence in North Carolina for murder and child molestation. In other cases in which Coffey was a prime suspect, victims have been lured by a man using devices including a fishing pole and a metal detector, raising the possibility that the tape recorder was another such device.  He has never been charged in the Lyon sisters case.
 
During the disappearance and for years afterward, on the anniversary of the girls’ disappearance, newspapers have run stories, with headlines like “Desperate Hunt,” in a front-page story in the Washington Post two weeks after the girls were reported missing. None of the articles interviewed Kensington Heights residents, beyond John Lyon, the girls' father.
 
"They weren't shy," Lyon said in an interview with the Montgomery Journal. "They were very confident and trusting. Maybe too much." 
 
"I've been hanging in limbo," Lyon said in the story written in 2000, on the 25th anniversary of the girls’ disappearance. "But you learn to do that. You learn how to live your life again." 
 
Lyon, a former disc jockey at WMAL-AM (630), joined the Montgomery County Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program in 1992. Lyon said the chance to help other victims has helped him. "You can still stand upright and move on," Lyon said. "It helps to know someone out there has been through this kind of ordeal, too." 
 
As a victim assistant, Lyon had a chance to the 1999 trial of Hadden Clark, who was convicted of murdering 6-year-old Michele Dorr, who was reported missing from her father's Silver Spring home on May 31, 1986. The Journal reported, “At times, Lyon thought to himself, ‘This could be my trial.’”
 
One of the sisters’ brother Jay, who was 15 at the time of the disappearance is 43 years old now and a homicide detective with the Montgomery County police.
 
According to a 1998 Washington Post article, “On the 23rd anniversary of the girls' disappearance, Lyon, his wife, Mary, their two grown sons and five grandchildren planted a weeping cherry tree and small flower garden in a local cemetery. Nearby, they placed a stone marker etched with Sheila's and Katherine's names, their birthdays and the day they vanished. They visit once a week.
 
“‘It's unbelievable that people can disappear off the face of the Earth without a trace when they find dinosaur bones and identify them,’ Lyon says. ‘But maybe it's God's plan or something. If it's something you could understand, then it would be easier to tell you how we get through it.’”
Courtesy of Barbara Ruben 
Devin Place
 

The Electric House

KH’s Electric House
 
According to Howard Gibbs of PEPCO, the “Oakland Terrace substation” was located at 10614 Brunswick Avenue.  He could not determine when this substation was originally put into service, but it was decommissioned in 1971. He found photos of the substation that may have been taken in the 1950s.
Kensington Heights Electric House 1961
Electric power is distributed at a high voltage to substations, where it is converted to neighborhood power lines.  This substation was decommissioned when PEPCO switched from 13 kV to 69 kV supply in order to service a larger number of customers.  The new substation is located in Kensington. 
 
Howard recalls articles in the PEPCO company newsletter in the late 1970s about people purchasing decommissioned substations and converting them into homes.  The walls are thick and the floors are concrete, making them more difficult to modify - but quieter - than a traditional house.
 
Shelly Goodman is the current owner of the house on Brunswick.  She says the house was originally bought by a local realtor named Ed Schultz..  According to Shelly, Mr. Schultz purchased several PEPCO substations and converted them  into residences for rental.  He eventually sold the home to Shelly, who was the first owner to actually live in the house.
 

Kensington Heights Electric House 2005

Over the thirty-two years she has lived in it, she has made many improvements to the former PEPCO substation.  Some of these include fixing interior walls, using a jackhammer to cut through a wall to excavate windows, and renovating the kitchen.
 
Some of the unique features of the house include walls that are 2½ feet thick, venetian blinds that are painted on interior walls, and an oversized chimney that was built to harness a possible explosion from the substation.  Shelly also says that her upper floor bedroom is built with steel and brick.  It is so solid that she has hung a swing inside.
 
 
Courtesy of Aaron and Megan Garnett 
Findley Road