Beginnings of a Town:

Like many towns throughout America, Kensington owes its existence to the expansion of the railroads. In this case, the flourmills along the Mississippi River at St. Anthony, MN were instrumental in establishing what would become the Soo Line Railroad and hence the village of Kensington:

Winter 1883-84:

Surveying crews plot the right-of-way through Wisconsin. April 1884 Construction begins at Cameron, Wisconsin, building west to Turtle Lake and east to Bruce, a total of 46 miles. Through a traffic agreement with the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha -- the "Omaha Road," that railroad was used to convey M.S.Ste.M&A. traffic between Minneapolis and Turtle Lake. April 13, 1884 (or Sept. 15, 1883?) The Minneapolis & St. Croix Railway was incorporated to construct the road from the Twin Cities to Turtle Lake.

September 4, 1884:

The same group of men organized the Minneapolis & Pacific Railway. This entity was to provide for westward expansion into the wheat fields of Minnesota and the Dakotas, allowing grain to be moved to the mills.

April 1886:

Construction of the Minneapolis & Pacific Railway begins. Peter Johnson, who owned and farmed the land that was to become Kensington, signed an agreement with the railroad in August of 1886 allowing a station to be built and the village lots would be platted by W. D. Washburn, at his expense. The agreement further stipulated that said lots would be owned in common by Washburn and Johnson. The plat for “Kensington, Douglas Co., Minn.” was registered in March of 1887. (Photo taken before the tracks were rerouted and the depot was moved in 1907)


December 20, 1886:

The Minneapolis & Pacific Railway reaches Lidgerwood, North Dakota, where work was discontinued. It would be recommenced in 1891 when the various entities were merged as one company (Minneapolis, St. Paul, & Sauk Ste. Marie Railroad Company, aka the Soo Line).


The Soo Railroad became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway system in 1992.

Kensington Becomes Visible:

The lots in the new town were sold quickly and construction activity was brisk as additional settlers arrived to establish their businesses and homes. The above photo is believed to be the earliest of Kensington. Those pioneering businessmen organized the village government, laid the ground work for a school house and church, and invested in other business enterprises. Kensington celebrated its Centennial in 1990. Ten village residents compiled, wrote, and published “Kensington’s First 100 Years”. The book outlines the early settlement of the area, development of the area townships and village, contains descriptions of many of the businesses, and profiles many of the area families.

Village Government:

On September 19, 1891, the first “common council” met to take their oaths of office and begin to organize the village government. John P. Hedberg (photo at left) served as the first council president. Since then, a total of twenty-nine men have been elected as mayor or council president—the term “mayor” was not used until 1922. The minutes of the council meetings give a glimpse of how the village has evolved over the years. Without any county, state, or federal aid, the early leaders (mayors and council) had to cope with maintaining the streets, building a jail, inspecting chimneys, building a village hall, and installing sidewalks. A Board of Health was formed to provide for the health and welfare of the citizens. Funds for the various projects came initially from liquor, pool table, and peddler licenses. In those first few years a poll tax of a couple days labor was imposed on able-bodied men to help with the various projects. The council proposed to forgive poll taxes for the first twenty five men to volunteer for the fire department. Later councils would cope with formally establishing the volunteer fire department, building the sewer and water infrastructure, gravelling (and eventually) tarring the streets, and annexing additional lands to ensure continued growth.

Ordinances Adopted at the Oct. 2, 1891 Meeting:

Village Halls:

 Besides serving as a place for council meetings, the building also served as the village community center. Built in 1893 by W. J. Headburg for $795.00, it was first used for holding classes until the school could be built circa 1900   A contract for $6996.00 was let in July 1930 to replace the wooden hall with this structure and built on the adjacent lot. The Volunteer Fire Dept. occupies the lot where the original hall had been.   The new Community Center, which houses the city offices, a small medical clinic, and the Senior Dining Program, was completed in time for the Heritage Society to host an exhibit from Sweden in 2004. 

Kensington School District:

The village council appropriated $500.00 for the school building fund in 1899. A central heating system was added in 1904. The wooden building was destroyed by fire in 1910 and once again classes were held in the village hall until the new brick school was completed in 1912 at a cost of $12,000. 
Most students who wanted to further their education beyond the eighth grade rode the train to Glenwood, MN (county seat of Pope County and about twenty miles distant. This 1951 photo (above) shows the school after an addition in 1930 that allowed the school to offer four years of high school education. Just four boys were in the first graduating class of 1935. The consolidation of area rural schools in the 1950’s with the Kensington school district created a need for additional space for the influx of students. The addition (right) housed the elementary students and a gymnasium—basketball games and other school programs had been held in the village hall until this addition was completed in 1955. 
 Fire engulfed the high school on Jan.1, 1970. Area fire departments managed to save the addition although there was some smoke damage. Classes were held in the addition, area churches, and the village hall until the new school (photo at right) was completed. Open house was held October 17, 1971 Faced with declining enrollments the Kensington and Hoffman school districts reached a pairing agreement in 1979 that resulted in the elementary students from both districts using the Kensington building and grades 7-12 attending Hoffman. Further consolidation of area schools, brought on by the combination of increasing costs and enrollments that were continuing to decline, resulted in the Kensington district joining with districts in Grant County to form West Central Area Schools. Ground breaking for a new facility in Barrett for grades 7-12 was held April 9, 1994. The elementary students were split between Elbow Lake and Kensington, grades 7-9 used the Hoffman school, and grades 10-12 were taught in Elbow Lake until the Barrett facility was ready for the middle and high school students in the fall of 1995.

Village Photos: