Friday, February 27, 2009

Glen Echo Park - Part 2

Glen Echo Park, also known as Glen Echo Amusement Park and Glen Echo Park Historic District, is a public park and national historic district in Glen Echo, Montgomery County, Maryland. Photos are from the 1920's and are part of National Photo Company archive at the Library of Congress.

Glen Echo Park 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, 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. (Author: REAL BULLETS FOLKS!)

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) staged a sit-in protest on the carousel and five African American students were subsequently arrested. As a result, an eleven-week civil rights campaign began. The park opened the doors to all races in the 1961 season.

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.

Since 1971, the park has been under the watch of the National Park Service. Various renovations 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 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.

ADDITIONAL INFO ~ Information provided by Steven Solomon, who is a resident of the neighborhood:

"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."

That's not accurate - some of the community complained, but in reality, many actually FOUGHT for integration. Specifically, the Bannockburn community across MacArthur Boulevard from Glen Echo was extremely involved in integrating the park.

Additionally, the reason for bus service and trolley service being shut down was no different than anywhere else in the US in that time period - the popularity of the automobile and building of roads decreased ridership to the point that private ownership of the bus service and trolley cars did not make financial sense and they were shut down.


TokyoMagic! said...

Wonderful photos! If that Caterpillar ride is what I think it is, I remember a "dragon" version of it at the L.A. County Fair in the seventies. The train went up and down and around in a circle, while a VERY dirty tarp lowered down around you on both sides of the train. Weird. What's weirder is that that exact same dragon ride was announced as one of the attractions that would be going into Westcot....the China section, I believe.

Major Pepperidge said...

I love these old amusement parks... such a shame that so many of them are gone today. I really wish I had the time (and money!) to travel the country and enjoy the ones that still remain.

Keith said...

These are great. I love seeing these photos. It's cool getting a chance to see more of this park. Have a wonderful weekend. Cheers!

Viewliner Ltd. said...

TokyoMagic!: I also remember the one at LA County Fair, never went on it though.

Major: Time and money, that's all it takes. We will have to make both, before its to late. See the USA NOW!

Keith: I am glad you enjoyed these. There are many more pics. Maybe later on I will do another post.

Thanks all for your comments, Richard.

A_N_Nanda said...

Finally, everything boils down to economic viability--be it a public library or an art gallery or a public amusement park. People with love for old things are there to wistfully recollect the old episodes. An interesting post.



Anonymous said...

If anyone has any stories about Glen Echo from the mid to late 1950's, and what rides were operating then, I would love to know them. Also any pictures from then.
I am writing a children's book taking place there at that time period, but have scant resources, even after talking to those at Glen Echo now.
Also, does any one remember if there was a peanut gallery at the Howdy Doody show's they did there in the 1950's?