The Town of Kensington grew up around the intersection of five roads taking people through Kensington to and from Charlottetown, Kelvin Grove, Travelers Rest, Summerside, Malpeque, Irishtown, New London, and Cavendish. Because of this location it became known as Five Lanes’ End. It was renamed Barrett’s Cross in 1851, after James Barrett one of the first settlers and wealthy land owners in the area. In 1862 at a meeting of residents the name was changed to Kensington upon the request of another prominent land owner, Thomas Sims.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century the Town flourished as its commercial and industrial base expanded. In 1873 the provincial railroad, detouring from its original path, made its way through the Town and began operating in 1875. Many businesses then moved from Margate to Kensington. This brought numerous benefits and increased the prosperity of the community. Kensington became a central station and shipping point for the region. In 1905 the Kensington Train Station was officially opened. The station is the most architecturally outstanding of the 120 on the Island. It was designed by C.R. Chappell and is referred to as a “boulder station” because it was made from boulders left behind during the last ice age. Early in the century the station was recognized as an attraction to the area and continues to be so.
The Railway Station officially closed in 1983. In recognizing the richness of the station and the possibilities that existed efforts were made to preserve the station. The waiting room of the station was converted into the Kensington Tourist Information Center in 1984. It also housed the Veteran’s Military Museum for some time and in 1991 became home to the Kensington Farmers Market which has since moved to the railway freight shed.
Until late in 2008 the Railway Station served as a museum for the Kensington Heritage Association and the PEI Railway Heritage Association to display their artifacts and other historic memorobilia. A restaurant and pub is currently housed at the station.
In the early days, Kensington had at least two hotels which included barns or livery stables to accommodate the horses of the travelling public.
Among the first businesses in Kensington was Schurmans, a building materials and construction firm which began in 1896. Their first contract was for the Church in Margate in 1898. Since that time the company has expanded greatly and is now known as Kent Building Supplies.
The Kennedy store was another large business in those early days, located on the southeast corner of the main intersection in Town.
The Bank of New Brunswick was the first Bank to set up in Kensington, in the year 1906. In 1913 it amalgamated with the Bank of Nova Scotia. Mr. Layton Rogers was the first Bank Manager.
Kensington first received electricity in 1917 from a plant in Mill Valley run by Mr. Bannerman Tanton. A sewage collection system was installed in 1958.
Kensington, being at the centre of the agricultural district was the natural location for many potato dealers, and two or three decades ago had a flourishing potato buying and shipping industry.
A school is the central spot in any Community. Kensington’s first school in 1847 was located at the fork between the roads leading from Irishtown and Margate. John McLauchien was the first teacher. The second school built in 1880, was a four room building which was later divided into two houses. In 1903 a new school was built that became an Elementary School, when the High School was constructed on the Margate Road in 1963.
The first Library in Kensington began in 1934 with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation in a room in the old Town Hall. The first Librarian was Mrs. Townsend, who served in this capacity until ill health forced her to resign in 1962. The library is now housed in the Town Hall located on Victoria Street East.
Recreation has always been an important part of the community. There have been numerous rinks constructed over the years in Kensington. The present Community Gardens was built after the fire in 1977 destroyed its predecessor. To mark Canada’s centennial in 1973 the Kensington Regional Committee opened a new community park, called Centennial Park, adjacent to the old recreation center. Since that time an outdoor swimming pool has been added. There are also playing fields adjacent to the Community Gardens and the schools. The Kensington Area Recreation Association is a non-profit organization that coordinates most of the recreation in the Town.
When incorporated, Kensington had a population of 600. Throughout its history the Town has continued to grow and to respond to the changing forces of time and in doing so it has remained a service center for the region. The current population of Kensington, according to the most recent census information, is 1491.