Glen Echo Park, Maryland

Glen Echo Park, Maryland

Infobox_protected_area | name = Glen Echo Park
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location = Maryland, USA
nearest_city = Washington D.C.
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governing_body = National Park Service

Glen Echo Park is a public park in Glen Echo, Maryland. It is managed by the National Park Service as part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. It began in 1891 as a National Chautauqua Assembly and operated as an amusement park until 1968. As of 2007, the park hosts an arts education program and is also known for its antique carousel, its Spanish Ballroom, and its historic electric street car and its annual Washington Folk Festival.

The park is near to several notable sites such as the Clara Barton house and the C&O canal. Glen Echo used to be a trolley park accessible by the street car system; the park was designed to be the last stop on the cars so people could go there after work. The original park had several attractions, including bumper cars, shooting galleries, and an expansive rollercoaster. The park also had a large pool, the Crystal Pool, the remains of which can still be seen today, and a shooting gallery, which was stopped in WWII because of ammunition shortages.


The park was originally designed as a Chautauqua site, a precursor of sorts to the arts facility Glen Echo has become today. It flourished until a misprint in the paper claimed that the mosquitoes in the area had malaria. 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 70 years of its history. However, on June 30th, 1960 a group of college students (primarily from Howard University) [ Glen Echo Park - Frequently Asked Questions (U.S. National Park Service) ] ] staged a sit-in protest on the carousel and five African American students were subsequently arrested. (The arrests were later appealed to the Supreme Court and the convictions reversed in "Griffin v. Maryland".) As a result, an eleven-week civil rights campaign began; students and residents of Bannockburn alike came out in force. The park opened the doors to all races in the 1961 season. [ The Washington Post, [ Protest on a Sculpted Horse] (June 29, 2004) ] However, the surrounding community complained about the influx of urban African Americans. As a result, the trolley and bus service to Glen Echo were closed. Without the public transportation link, Glen Echo, like most small suburban amusement parks, closed in 1968. Today, the park is served by a bus coming from the Bethesda Metro station.

Since 1971, the park has been under the watch 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 the art deco style opening gates. The park's carousel and large children's theater remain an attraction for all ages in Bethesda and Glen Echo. Every Friday and Sunday night of the year, the park hosts a contra dance either inside the Spanish Ballroom or in the open-air Bumper Car Pavilion. The two venues host other dances (salsa, waltz, tango, slow blues, or swing) at the same time and also on other weekend and weekday evenings.

In the early 2000s, the park obtained a historic streetcar from Philadelphia. The streetcar is now located at the entrance to the park.

The Park Carousel

The last operating park ride, and the highlight of the park today, is a 1921 Dentzel three-row 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 and 10-2 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays all season and Fridays in July and August. In its heyday the carousel sported an operating brass ring game, 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.

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 park 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. Carousel and fairground art specialist Rosa Ragan, who has restored several other carousels in the US, 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 poor 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's Hours of Operation are:

May-June: Wed & Thurs, 10am-2pm and Sat & Sun, 12 noon-6pm

July-August: Wed, Thurs, Fri, 10am-2pm and Sat & Sun, 12 noon-6pm

September: Sat & Sun, 12 noon-6pm

Park Images

Pictures of Glen Echo Park are available on .


The park was the subject of an art exhibition by Steven J. Fuchs in 1996.


External links

* [ Glen Echo Park official website]
* [ Glen Echo Park, from the National Park Service]
* [ "Glen Echo Park: Center for Education and Recreation," a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan]
* [ Town of Glen Echo]
* [ Glen Echo Partnership for Arts and Culture website] accessed June 12, 2007

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