Skip to Main Content

Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: Jennifer Falkinburg, 09/9/2003
Carousel at Glen Echo Park
Inventory No.: M: 35-39
Date Listed: 7/4/1980
Location: 7300 MacArthur Boulevard , Glen Echo, Montgomery County
Category: Object,Structure
Period/Date of Construction: 1921
Architect/Builder: Builder: Gustav and William Dentzel
Description: The Carousel at Glen Echo Park consists of a suspended stage and canopy divided into 18 bays or segments. It contains 52 carved wooden animals in three concentric rings around the stage and two decorated circus chariots with fixed wheels, each having two seats. The animals include 39 horses, four ostriches, four rabbits, and a single deer, tiger, giraffe, and lion, all bearing fanciful saddles with colorful saddle blankets and harnesses. The carousel and its accompanying Wurlitzer Band Organ are housed in a 12-sided building with a segmented domed roof. The canopy of each of the 18 identical segments of the carousel consists of a vaulted ceiling terminating on the inner end at an arched tympanum containing a cartouche with a shell and laurel leaves as decoration. Below each tympanum are supporting gold wooden foliated corbels. Below the corbels is a rectangular mirror in a gesso frame angled downward to reflect the animals and their riders. Separating the mirrors between segments are vertical foliated moldings bearing electric light bulbs; these moldings align with overhead beams, similarly lighted, extending out between the vaulted ceiling bays. Between the corbels and the mirrors is a lighted horizontal molding, and below the mirrors is a colorful festoon molding from which more light bulbs are suspended. Where the bays intersect, the festoon is broken by winged cherubs' heads in cartouches. The wooden outer cornice of the canopy is elaborately carved and painted with court jester heads, mirrors, and laurel leaves. The mechanical operation of the carousel is similar to that of post mills. The entire carousel is supported by a vertical post braced by two cross-trees which are in turn braced by quarter bars between the post and cross-trees. As in mill construction, all these members are jointed and bolted. An electric motor turns a drive shaft using gears and belts. Lighting is supplied by three commutator rings located inside the annular drive gear, immediately below the 18 radiating arms which support the canopy. This allows all lights to burn regardless of the rotation of the carousel. A Wurlitzer Military Band Duplex Orchestral Organ, style no. 165, is located on one of the 12 interior walls of the carousel house and accompanies the operation of the carousel. Although this is probably not the organ originally installed, it is contemporary with the carousel and an exceptionally fine example of such organs. Significance: The Glen Echo Carousel is significant as an exceptionally fine example of the art of carousel building. Of some 200 carousels in the United States of approximately the same vintage, it is among the top six or seven in quality, and appears to be the only one of its age and quality remaining in its original location. The Carousel was built in Philadelphia in 1921 by the firm of Gustav and William Dentzel, one of America's most prominent carousel makers. Shortly thereafter it was shipped to the Glen Echo Amusement Park, which operated from the turn of the 20th century until the late 1960s, and became a principal feature beloved by generations of Washington area children. When the amusement park closed, the carousel was sold to a Virginia collector. Local citizens raised the necessary funds to repurchase it for retention in the community. Shortly after the U.S. Government purchased the park property in 1970 for administration by the National Park Service as Glen Echo Park, the Park Service accepted title to the carousel and responsibility for maintaining and operating it.
Return to the National Register Search page