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Visiting Rock Creek Park and Forest Glen, Kensington, Maryland: Spectacular Views and Illuminations at Rock Creek Hills

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State flag of Maryland

State flag of Maryland

Lush, elevated greenery close to the District of Columbia boundary

[NB: Among the many notable buildings which are the subject of the hubpages, these may include religious buildings, described as churches, etc.; these descriptions centre on the buildings' architectural and historical interest.]

Many visitors to Washington, D.C., are familiar with Rock Creek Park; perhaps less familiar is the fact that the Park also extends a long way into Maryland, as the name suggests, following the course of Rock Creek, a tributary of the Potomac.

The area of Kensington, in Maryland's Montgomery County, known as Rock Creek Hills once formed part of the Alfred Ray farm: a local landowner who tragically perished on the Titanic in 1912. Because of the proximity of nearby Washington, D.C., land values locally were increasingly at a premium and when over 300 acres of the estate passed to the Continental Life Insurance Company, Earle Coombs of the Company engaged Kensington engineer Cecil Umstead and local realtor Charles Allen in the development of Rock Creek Hills (1). (This link, found below at the footnote contains an interesting history of the area provided by the Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association.)

After slow beginnings, eventually Rock Creek Hills became a sought after residential area. In 1974, on an acquired, wooded plot extending to 57 acres / 23 hectares overlooking Rock Creek Park — within which only 11 acres / 4.5 hectares had actually been cleared for building — the LDS Washington Temple was opened on a hill base of 312 feet / 95.1 metres. The idea was to preserve as much as possible the wooded natural environment of Rock Creek Hills, overlooking Rock Creek Park (2).

Executed in Alabama marble, some of which is translucent — shaved to be very thin in places — the design of the Temple was the responsibility of architect Keith W. Wilcox (1921-2011) (3). Other features include six gold coated spires, the tallest of which attains 288 feet / 88 metres. Access to the Temple and Visitor Center is at 9900 Stoneybrook Dr. (4).

I visited the area towards twilight, when the building was illuminated, and the effect was striking. The I-495 Beltway passes through Kensington and views of Rock Creek Hills and Rock Creek Park are quite spectacular from the Beltway (drivers keep your concentration on the road...!) Views are particularly impressive seen from the Forest Glen area of Kensington.

I am not qualified to explain any distinction between buildings historically known as cathedrals and L.D.S. Temples, but, unlike some city cathedrals, in Europe, North America and elsewhere, this Temple, which stands in many preserved acres of woodland is thus in an advantageous site, from a scenic perspective. Indeed, its spires may be said to rise atop the commanding heights of Rock Creek Hills.

At Christmas season, the vicinity has been the subject of widely admired light displays.

I have listed, below, some of the other, various visitor attractions at Kensington, Maryland, and the city is the subject of a Wikivoyage guide (5).

April 23, 2019

Notes

(1) https://rchca.org/resources/history-of-rock-creek-hills/

(2) See also: http://mcplanning.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=e5e1f548fd1e41f1a3960bcbea0f7ba0&trail=MC-J28-HSTRAIL-01

(3) Other works by Architect Wilcox include a training centre at Brigham Young University, Provo, UT; Keith W. Wilcox also served in the Utah House of Representatives.

(4) Exit 33 from I-495 Beltway.

(5) See also: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Kensington_(Maryland)#/

Some sourcing: Wikipedia / Wikimedia

The Washington D.C. LDS Temple, as viewed from I495 in Forest Glen.

The Washington D.C. LDS Temple, as viewed from I495 in Forest Glen.

Also worth seeing

In Kensington, Maryland itself, other visitor attractions include: Garrett Park's stone arch bridge over Rock Creek and Beech Drive, built in 1896 by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, has become somewhat of a local symbol of Kensington; Rock Creek Trail passes through the eponymous Park, close to Rock Creek Hills ; Antique Row (intersection of East Howard and Knowles Avenues) claims to be 'the DC metropolitan area's largest and oldest antiquing district' (see also: https://www.kensingtonantiquerow.com/ ), and includes an art gallery and a farmer's market.

At Chevy Chase, Maryland (distance: 3.4 miles / 5.5 kilometres), dating from 1959, the National 4‑H Conference Center, has a striking, pillared entrance and pediment.

The huge number of visitor attractions in Washington, DC (distance from Kensington, Maryland: 11.3 miles / 18.2 kilometres) are too numerous to mention adequately, but a few of these include the Washington Monument, the United States Capitol, the Smithsonian 'Castle', the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and Lafayette Square, and many others.

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How to get there: Wide air connections to the Washington, DC area are available via Reagan National (distance from Kensington, Maryland: 24.4 miles / 39.3 kilometres), Washington Dulles International (distance from Kensington, Maryland: 27.3 miles / 43.9 kilometres) and Baltimore Washington International / Thurgood Marshall (distance from Kensington, Maryland: 33.9 miles / 54.5 kilometres) Airports, where car hire is available. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

This map shows the incorporated and unincorporated areas in Montgomery County, Maryland, highlighting Kensington in red.

This map shows the incorporated and unincorporated areas in Montgomery County, Maryland, highlighting Kensington in red.

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