HISTORY OF THE PARK
Glen Echo Park was first developed in 1891 as a National Chautauqua Assembly, which taught the sciences, arts, languages, and literature. The Chautauqua lasted for just one season, and by the early 1900s, the site had become Glen Echo Amusement Park -- the premier amusement park serving the Washington area until 1968, when it closed. (Learn more about the carousel's history here.)
During the WWII era, some of the biggest swing bands in the country played in the historic Spanish Ballroom. In the early 1960s, the carousel played a significant role in the Washington, DC area civil rights movement. (Learn more about the civil rights story here.)
In 1971, after the federal government obtained the land, the National Park Service began managing a new park on the site. 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.
In 2002, the National Park Service transferred management of the Park to Montgomery County. which in turn created the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts & Culture, a new nonprofit, to oversee the Park's arts and cultural programs and maintains the historic facilities. The National Park Service continues its role in managing the grounds and providing historic interpretation.
From 2003 to 2010, extensive renovations of the Park's facilities took place under the direction of Montgomery County and the National Park Service with input from the Partnership and resident organizations. These renovations were funded with major federal, state, and county resources as well as private donations. Renovations included: the Spanish Ballroom, the Dentzel Carousel, the Puppet Co. Playhouse, the Arcade building, the Yellow Barn, Adventure Theatre, the Candy Corner, the Chautauqua Tower, the Ballroom Annex, and the Caretaker's Cottage. The Hall of Mirrors Dance Studio was renovated in 2014.
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.
Watch Glen Echo Amusement Park visitors tell their stories!
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 Carousel History page.
Civil Rights History of the Park
The carousel was pivotal in the Washington, DC area civil rights movement. Learn more here >>
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.
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 870. 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 our social dances program, visit our Dances page.
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.
Watch this short video and learn about the history of the Spanish Ballroom!
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.