Glen Echo Park, Maryland

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Glen Echo Park Historic District
Glen Echo Park, Maryland is located in Maryland
Glen Echo Park, Maryland
Location 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Maryland
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Area 9 acres (3.6 ha)
Built 1891 (1891)
Architectural style Moderne, Queen Anne, Shingle Style
NRHP Reference # 84001850[1]
Added to NRHP June 8, 1984

Glen Echo Park in Glen Echo, Maryland is an arts and cultural center. It is managed by the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture in cooperation with Montgomery County, Maryland, and the National Park Service. The site was first developed in 1891 as a National Chautauqua Assembly and then operated as an amusement park until 1968.[2] Today, the park is one of the finest cultural resources in the Washington, D.C. area. It offers hundreds of classes and workshops in the visual and performing arts and is home to thirteen resident artists and arts organizations. The park is well known for its antique Dentzel carousel, its Spanish Ballroom, its many public festivals, including Family Day and the Washington Folk Festival, its children's theaters, and its social dance program. The National Park Service offers park history tours and other programs and maintains a visitors area.

A Premier Arts and Cultural Center in Montgomery County

Management by Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture

The Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc. manages Glen Echo Park, one of the most lively visual and performing arts sites in the Washington area. Each year, more than 400,000 people come to the Park to renew their creative spirit through arts classes, festivals, exhibitions, dances, children’s theater, music performances, nature programs, and more.

Established by Montgomery County in 2002, the Partnership is a nonprofit organization charged with managing Glen Echo Park’s arts programs and facilities, including its historic buildings. The Partnership's mission is to present vibrant artistic, cultural, and educational offerings at the Park and to promote the Park as a unique destination for the region’s diverse population.

In collaboration with Montgomery County and the National Park Service, the Partnership works with resident artists and organizations to develop distinctive arts programming; operates the historic Dentzel carousel and the Spanish Ballroom; presents an extensive social dance program; produces festivals and special events; conducts fundraising and marketing; and manages and maintains all facilities.

Resident Arts Programs

Glen Echo Park's resident artists and organizations offer classes, concerts, exhibitions, open studios hours, workshops, lectures, and more at the Park. Resident programs and artists include: Adventure Theatre MTC, Art Glass Center at Glen Echo, Glen Echo Glassworks, Glen Echo Pottery, J. Jordan Bruns, Photoworks, Playgroup in the Park, the Puppet Co., SilverWorks, Under the Sea, Washington Conservatory of Music, Yellow Barn Studio & Gallery, and Young Creative Spirit.

Special Events & Concerts

Glen Echo Park hosts several family festivals and special events throughout the year, including Family Day (when the carousel opens for the season), Then & Wow, Labor Day Art Show, Irish Music and Dance Showcase, Washington Folk Festival, Fall Frolic, and Winter's Eve. From June through August, the Glen Echo Park Partnership presents a free summer concert series each Thursday night in the Bumper Car Pavilion.

Social Dance Program

Approximately 60,000 people attend Glen Echo Park's dances each year! The Park offers regular social dance events and classes in waltz, swing, contra, salsa, and more. Dances take place in the historic Spanish Ballroom, the Bumper Car Pavilion, and the recently renovated, climate-controlled Ballroom Annex (The Back Room). The renovation of the Spanish Ballroom in 2003 brought it back to its original splendor, and it remains the premiere site for dancing in the Washington DC area.

All social dances are open to the public, for all ages, with no prior experience or partner required. All dances offer an introductory lesson before the dance begins and most include live music. Alcohol is prohibited on park grounds, and smoking is prohibited in all buildings.



Edwin and Edward Baltzley, inventors, industrialists, and real estate developers, hoped to build upon the banks of the Potomac River a suburban community free of the urban pollution of late-nineteenth century Washington. In order to compete with other suburban developments, the Baltzley brothers planned a series of opulent attractions for their would-be community.[3]

On February 24, 1891, the Baltzley brothers incorporated the National Chautauqua of Glen Echo, the 53rd such assembly, and immediately set to building a stone citadel of culture to complement their real estate and resort enterprises.[4] Opened on June 16, 1891,[5] their arts and culture program included lectures and concerts[6] in a six-thousand-seat amphitheater;[5] special classes in Bible studies,[7] Greek, and Hebrew; physical training regiments;[8] and university extension courses. Hundreds flocked to the site to picnic, attend lectures on American history by Jane Meade Welch, courses on ancient Egypt by Lysander Dickerman, and concerts by John Philip Sousa and his band.[9] Clara Barton, encouraged by the Baltzleys, not only located her home and the American Red Cross headquarters at Glen Echo, but she presided over the Women’s Executive Committee for the Chautauqua itself.[10] The inaugural season’s success warranted an extension well into August.[11]

Reasons for the Chautauqua’s failure

By the spring of 1892 the various Baltzley enterprises were gravely in debt. On April 7, 1892, the Glen Echo Sand and Building Company, a Baltzley subsidiary, borrowed a large sum of money giving the Chautauqua site as collateral. This was one of many Baltzley mortgages on the site. The financial difficulties spread to the Glen Echo Railroad Company, yet another Baltzley enterprise, which, because of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the adjacent Washington Aqueduct system, had failed to bring the much anticipated street car service to the Chautauqua site and Glen Echo Village.[12] [clarification needed]

Compounding their overextended credit, the Baltzley brothers found themselves the victim of common rumor. At the beginning of the 1892 season, rumor had spread throughout Washington that Glen Echo was rampant with malaria.[13] Regardless of the validity of these accusations, when combined with the brother’s precarious finances, the Chautauqua site fell into disuse.[14]

Amusement park

Park Entrance

In the early 20th century it was turned into an amusement park, which operated until the late 1960s. Like many public facilities in and around the Washington area, Glen Echo was restricted to whites for 63 out of the first 70 years of its history.

However, on June 30, 1960, a group of college students (primarily from Howard University)[15] staged a sit-in protest on the carousel. Five African American students were subsequently arrested for trespassing.[16] The arrests were appealed to the Supreme Court four years later, and the convictions were reversed in Griffin v. Maryland on the grounds that the state had unconstitutionally used its police power to help a private business enforce its racial discrimination policy.[16] As a result, an eleven-week civil rights campaign began; students and residents of the nearby Bannockburn community alike came out in force. The park opened the doors to all races in the 1961 season.[17] Attendance at Glen Echo shrank in the late 1960s, and the park closed after the 1968 season.[16]

Management by National Park Service

Carousel at Glen Echo Park
Carousel at Glen Echo Park.jpg
Animals on the carousel
Location MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Maryland
Area less than one acre
Built 1921 (1921)
Architect Dentzel, Gustav; Dentzel, William
NRHP Reference # 80000351[1]
Added to NRHP July 4, 1980

Since 1971, the Park has been part of the National Park Service. Various renovations, backed by government funds and individual donations, have taken place throughout the park, most notably the Spanish Ballroom, the Arcade building that now hosts art classes and art studios, and the art deco style neon sign. The park's carousel and large children's theaters remain an attraction for all ages in Bethesda and Glen Echo. Every weekend (Thursday through Sunday) the park hosts social dances in the Spanish Ballroom, the open-air Bumper Car Pavilion, and the Ballroom Annex (The Back Room). The venues host many styles of dances, including swing, contra, salsa, waltz, tango, and blues.

The last operating park ride, and one of the highlights of the park today, is a 1921 Dentzel menagerie carousel with 38 horses, 2 chariots, 4 rabbits, 4 ostriches, a lion, a tiger, a giraffe, and a prancing deer. The carousel operates from May through September, running from 12 to 6 on weekends all season and 10-2 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays in July and August. In its heyday the carousel sported an operating brass ring, in which daring riders could reach out and pull a ring out of a holder next to the carousel. Grabbing a brass ring would win the lucky rider a free ride. The brass ring arm is still visible today, although it no longer operates.[18]

The face of the carousel had changed greatly since 1921, with the animals, rounding boards, inner drum panels, and band organ receiving several new coats of paint over the years. An installation photograph from 1921, as compared to the carousel in 1983, showed an original design of the body and tack on the Indian horse that was very different from the present-day animal. Chipping away at the horse's paint revealed several strata of differently colored and styled paint jobs spanning the past sixty years, with the original 1921 paint at the bottom.

The carousel was restored by specialist Rosa Ragan, who has restored several other carousels in the US. She restored the Indian horse by removing the park paint, exposing as much of the original paint as possible, and filling in the gaps in the original paint, a process called inpainting, before covering the horse in a protective varnish. This process, however, exposed the original paint to damage from riders, thus rendering the horse unridable. In order to restore each animal without risking damage to the original paint, Ragan developed a new process of uncovering the original paint job, recording the colors and design, and then covering the original paint with a reversible varnish before giving the animal a white base coat and repainting it in the original colors. However, Ragan did leave a small window of original paint exposed on each animal for riders to find.

These glimpses of the original 1921 paint are called "windows to the past" and can be found on the plain side (the inward-facing side) of each animal. Ragan's 20-year restoration of the carousel completely overhauled the animals, the band organ, and the rounding boards and drum panels, returning the carousel to its original beauty and splendor.

The carousel was in a scene in the 1989 comedy Chances Are starring Robert Downey Jr. and Cybill Shepherd. The carousel was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.[1]

Park Images

Pictures of Glen Echo Park are available on Wikimedia Commons page on Glen Echo.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Gary Scott and Bill Brabham (n.d.). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Glen Echo Park Historic District" (PDF). Maryland Historical Trust. Retrieved 2016-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. ‘A Throng at Glen Echo,’ “Washington Post”, May 21, 1891; Richard Cook & Deborah Lange, “Glen Echo Park: A Story of Survival”, Bethesda: Bethesda Communication Group, 2000, 4-8; ‘Glen Echo Park Historic Structures Report’, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, 1987, III-1 to III-8.
  4. ‘Report of the Women’s Executive Committee,’ “The National Chautauqua of Glen Echo”, Washington, DC: 1891; Richard Cook & Deborah Lange, “Glen Echo Park: A Story of Survival”, Bethesda: Bethesda Communication Group, 2000, 11-15.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "The National Chautauqua: Interesting Opening Exercises—Characteristic Address by Dr. Talmage". The Baltimore Sun. June 17, 1891. p. 4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Delsarte and Riches: Summer Lectures in Tent and Amphitheater at Glen Echo: Talmage on the Holy Land". The Washington Post. June 18, 1891. p. 2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Inside Closed Gates: First Sunday of the National Chautauqua". The Washington Post. June 22, 1891. p. 2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Glen Echo Art School: Feature of the National Chautauqua Educational Course: New Manual Training Idea". The Washington Post. March 22, 1891. p. 16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. ‘Report of the Women’s Executive Committee,’ “The National Chautauqua of Glen Echo”, Washington, DC: 1891; ‘The Glen Echo Chautauqua’, “Washington Post”, June 21, 1891; ‘Glen Echo Advertisement’, “Washington Post”, May 12, 1891; ‘At Glen Echo Today’, “Washington Post”, June 16, 1891.
  10. Elizabeth Prior, “Clara Barton: Professional Angel”, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987, 263-265.
  11. ‘Ho For Glen Echo!’, “Washington Post”, July 29, 1891.
  12. ‘Glen Echo Park Historic Structures Report’, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, 1987, III-40 to III-54; ‘Glen Echo Road to be Sold at Auction’, “Washington Post”, June 23, 1895.
  13. Richard Cook & Deborah Lange, “Glen Echo Park: A Story of Survival”, Bethesda: Bethesda Communication Group, 2000, 30.
  14. Richard Cook & Deborah Lange, “Glen Echo Park: A Story of Survival”, Bethesda: Bethesda Communication Group, 2000, 30-33; ‘Glen Echo’s Future’, “Washington Post”, July 19, 1896.
  15. Glen Echo Park - Frequently Asked Questions (U.S. National Park Service)
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Scharfenberg, Kirk (April 2, 1969). "Laughter Dies At Glen Echo". The Washington Post. p. C1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. The Washington Post, Protest on a Sculpted Horse (June 29, 2004)
  18. Gary Scott and Nicholas Veloz (March 1980). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Carousel at Glen Echo Park" (PDF). Maryland Historical Trust. Retrieved 2016-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

The following are filed under 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, Glen Echo, Montgomery County, MD: