Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo Park History

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, D.C. By June 1891, their arts and culture program included lectures and concerts in a six thousand person amphitheater, special classes in Bible studies, Greek and Hebrew, physical training regiments 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. Clara Barton presided over the Women's Executive Committee for the Chautauqua itself. At the beginning of the 1892 season, rumor had spread throughout the District of Columbia that Glen Echo was rampant with malaria. Regardless of the validity of these accusations, when combined with the brother's precarious finances, the Chautauqua site fell into disuse. The Chautauqua Tower is the only surviving building of the Chautauqua era at Glen Echo. Today the Chautauqua Tower is used as an art studio.

By 1911 it was turned into an amusement park, which operated until 1968. The trolley car from Washington, D.C. brought many people. Each year they added a new ride or attraction. These included the Crystal Pool, the Spanish Ballroom, the Midway, the carousel, a dodgem, skeeball alleys and shooting galleries, a penny arcade, the Pretzel, the Whip, the Coaster Dips and the Flying Scooter. Glen Echo Amusement Park became a family playground with wholesome attractions. During the amusement park glory days, the 1921 Dentzel carousel was the jewel of the park and it still remains the most treasured centerpiece of the park.

In 1971, after the federal government obtained the land, the National Park Service began managing the park. The National Park Service collaborated with artists and arts organizations to create a rich arts program in the spirit of the original Chautauqua movement. Today the park is co-managed by the NPS and the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc. a nonprofit, on behalf of Montgomery County, Maryland. The park presents year-round activities in dance, theater, visual arts and environmental education. Among the most popular activities at Glen Echo Park are weekly dances in the Spanish Ballroom, performances by the Puppet Co. and Adventure Theatre, and special events such as Family Day and the annual Labor Day Art Show.