Few names conjure up as much respect, admiration or praise as that of Frederick Douglass. On the 200th anniversary of his birth, Preservation Maryland is proud to remember the contributions of one the state’s most famous citizens.
Abraham Lincoln made many visits and stops in Maryland over the course of his presidency and broader political career, but perhaps none are as photographically iconic as his trip to the Maryland countryside in October of 1862.
Photo from Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture.
Founded in 1891 by the National Chautauqua Assembly, Glen Echo Park was originally the site of adult education courses, lectures, concerts, and the arts. After the Chatauqua endeavor failed due to financial difficulties and seasonal cyclical declines in attendance, the Glen Echo campus was turned into an amusement park as early as 1899 – in part, to capitalize on the large gathering buildings and the pleasant campus especially in the summer months.
Many iterations of rides and games changes over the years. In 1911, the park featured a dance pavilion and miniature railway and a handful of rides. Glen Echo was also the site of the first bumper cars ride in the United States! It was known as Skooter and installed in 1921. In 1931, Crystal Pool was built to accommodate 3000 swimmers.
Like many amusement parks in the area, Glen Echo Park was segregated and on June 30, 1960, a group of local college students largely from Howard University, staged a sit-in protest at the Park’s carousel. The demonstrates were arrested for trespassing by local law enforcement. Due to this act and sustained pressure, Glen Echo was integrated starting in the season of 1961 for the next seven years.
Protesters demanding integration at Glen Echo, 1960s. Photo from Glen Echo Archives.
With dwindling attendance and a change in social and recreational interests, Glen Echo closed in 1968 and the rides dismantled. In 1971, the National Park Service took over management of the Park and it was the listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. As of 2002 Glen Echo has been run jointly by the Park Service and the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture. There are fourteen resident artists and art organizations hosted on the campus, and there’s always an event or two happening!
A selection of the buildings still stand and even some of the more unique buildings have been repurposed: the original Dentzel carousel, restored between 1983 and 2003, is open daily for rides; the Spanish Ballroom hosts dances each week, and the shooting gallery and arcade are now home to Adventure Theatre and the Puppet Company.
This post was written by Maggie Pelta-Pauls, a Waxter Intern with Preservation Maryland. A graduate of The College of William and Mary, Maggie is primed to research and write about Maryland history – especially culinary history. Learn more about Maggie and our The Waxter Memorial Internship program here: presmd.org/waxter.
A legacy gift from William D. Waxter, III established the Waxter Memorial Internship to help Preservation Maryland support the next generation in historic preservation.