History of Glen Echo Park
Glen Echo Park began in 1891 as a
National Chautauqua Assembly, which taught the sciences, arts, languages, and literature. By the early 1900s Glen Echo Park had become a premier amusement park, serving the Washington area until 1968. 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 managed by the nonprofit Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc. on behalf of Montgomery County, Maryland.
The National Park Service continues its role in managing the grounds and providing historic interpretation, while the Partnership oversees facilities and programs.
Today, the park is host to many resident arts and cultural organizations, artist studios, a thriving social dance program, a restored carousel, and numerous classes in visual and performing arts.
(Pictured above: Bumper Car Pavilion, now a dance hall and rental venue, in early 1900s.)
The Spanish Ballroom, built on the site of an earlier dance pavilion called the Crystal Ballroom, was inspired by Spanish mission architecture and includes 7,500 square feet of dance floor. The entire building (concrete, stucco, and steel construction) is 90 feet by 145 feet and was originally designed to accommodate 1,800 dancers. Under today's modern building codes, the ballroom has a capacity of 840. This beautifully restored 1933 Mediterranean-style Art Deco building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is considered one of the best dance halls on the east coast. Come see why serious dancers travel miles to be a part of history. For more information about this year's dance schedule, go to Dances in our events calendar.
Looking for a formal and glamorous venue for a large corporate gathering, private dance party, wedding reception, bar/bat mitzvah, or school event? Find out how to rent the Spanish Ballroom in Rentals.
One of the Washington areas local treasures, the historic Glen Echo Park Dentzel Carousel was installed at the Park in 1921. For more information on the carousel, visit our Dentzel Carousel page.
Want to Learn More? For information on the new edition of the book Glen Echo Park: A Story of Survival, by Richard Cook and Deborah Lange, click here.
ART DECO ARCHITECTURE
Many of Glen Echo Park's buildings and design elements were influenced by Art Deco, a design style characterized by bold, linear symmetry and references to sleek, streamlined machinery. Art Deco represented elegance, glamour, functionality, and leisure, and was especially appropriate for the modern rides of amusement parks. Learn more on our Art Deco at the Park page and view images of the Park’s iconic architecture on our Photo Galleries page.
For information on films and tours presented by the National Park Service, visit our National Park Service page.