The Town That Disappeared – Kensington, Michigan: 1831-1905
The non-existent village of Kensington resides in Oakland County and was eventually wiped out completely by the railroad, bad business deals, greed...and the construction of I-96 and Kensington Metropark.
Kensington was settled in 1831, with a post office appearing in 1834 named “Lyon”, the same name of the township. In 1836, the town was re-platted and the post office name was changed to 'Kensington'.
At Kensington's peak there were five blacksmiths, a boot shop, brick store, two brickyards, three churches, flour mill, three general stores, three hotels, the Kensington Inn tavern, livery stable, and two shoe shops. Thanks to the booming business Kensington was experiencing, on December 12, 1837, the Kensington Bank Company was founded by townsmen that included Alfred Dwight and Sherman Dix.
At this time, there was an influx of wildcat banks that were meant to avoid state legislature ordinances to open new banks. This is where the Kensington Bank Company came in. Dwight, Dix, and a few others hatched a scheme and drew in some of the town “suckers” to buy company stock.
In 1838, Kensington Bank obtained a hefty amount of blank bank notes and distributed them into circulation. The following year, a national bank crisis found its way to Michigan. Thanks to this recession, the Kensington Bank notes sales dropped dramatically. Those who already owned these bank notes now couldn't cash them in and on top of that, the Kensington Bank had printed up more notes than they had cash to cover.
When the farmers were able to sell their crops, the bank once again had money, but Dwight & Dix took $50,000 and split to Milwaukee, where they bought up jewelry, land, and livestock, and kept the rest for themselves.
Even with all that, by the 1850s, Kensington kept growing. With up to 300 residents, Kensington became a popular stagecoach stop along the Grand River Trail, heavily traveled between Grand Rapids and Detroit. But when the Detroit, Lansing & Lake Michigan Railroad was constructed in 1871 along with the Michigan Air Line Railroad in 1882, they intentionally passed up a route to Kensington. Instead, they went to Milford and South Lyon, diverting business & travelers away from Kensington.
So, added to the wildcat bank fiasco and the railroad snub, there was a lack of sufficient water power, villagers were not paying their bills, and residents were leaving town. These all played key roles in the town's disintegration. The post office closed in 1902 and by 1905 only four families remained! In the 1950's, any old remaining buildings were leveled and destroyed by the planners & builders of Kensington Metropark and golf course.
Along the Huron River and the golf course is where most of the town was, as you'll see in the 1872 atlas below. Plus, if you visit and look closely, there are remnants of old buildings, farm equipment and more from the old days of Kensington.
The Ghost Town of Mandan
Three Forgotten Michigan Criminals
Abandoned Silver Mine, Lake Superior