National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
Dentzel Carousel Restoration

Description: The Glen Echo Park Foundation incorporated in 1987 and worked in cooperation with the NPS to preserve existing structures, enhance park development, and support cultural and educational programs at Glen Echo Park, Maryland, just outside Washington D.C. at National Capital Region. The Foundation worked in cooperation with the NPS until it was superseded in 2002 by the new non-profit board The Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture (GEPPAC). However all the restoration work on the Dentzel Carousel was done during the period of the Foundation's partnership.

The Dentzel Carousel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has the distinction of being a "Menagerie Carousel" and is one of the few "Grand Models". It was installed at Glen Echo Park in 1921 and is one of approximately 135 functioning antique carousels in the country. On the carousel are 52 animals, two chariots, a canopy with mirrors, jester heads and angels fabricated out of plaster, ceiling panels with flower paintings, an inner drum with pictures of the woods, mountains and lakes, a 1926 Wurlitzer organ and a brass ring game. The decorative building that houses the Carousel, also built in 1921, is a circular building made of wood with buttresses made from locally quarried stone.

An integral part of the Dentzel Carousel is the Wurlitzer model 165 military band organ. This elaborately decorated orchestral organ was the largest regularly produced automated music machine made by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company of North Towanda, New York. It was manufactured in 1925 and delivered to the park new for the 1926 season. There are only 11 Wurlitzer Model 165s known to exist. Mechanical restoration was completed in 1978, and restoration to the outside shell was accomplished in 1997. Annual maintenance, tuning, and future mechanical repairs will require funding for the foreseeable future.

In 1978, the NPS began restoration of the Carousel. During this time efforts focused on the restoration of the band organ and maintenance and repair of the Carousel. With donation box funds and proceeds from the rides, it was projected to take 60 years to fully restore the Carousel. Private funds were needed to support the preservation effort.

Therefore, the NPS welcomed the opportunity to work with the Foundation, allowing the restoration process to proceed more quickly, and thus limit future damage and make the vintage carousel available for public use and enjoyment in perpetuity. By working closely with NPS targets, the Foundation fundraisers have been able to define specific sub-projects to attract potential donors and have managed to adapt fund raising techniques to conform to the NPS donation guidelines. Fundraising ranges from candy money donations from children to grant proposals and individual, corporate and business donations. As the money has been raised, a project has been identified, proposed to the NPS, planned in partnership, and executed. This pattern has lent confidence to potential donors that their contributions will be put to appropriate use in a timely manner.

With early success, Carousel committee members identified a potential donor in 1996 and for the next year, worked at developing a relationship with them while costing information was obtained from the NPS. The Foundation submitted a major grant proposal to the potential donor in 1997, which led to a pledge of $500,000. The anonymous donor gave the park a stipulation of completing the restoration in 5 years. The park developed a restoration plan that accommodated this schedule and allowed the carousel to be in operation during the summer season. The Foundation happened to make the right connections at the right time.

This allowed for the Carousel to be completely restored and reopened in the fully restored state by May 2003. The work included completion of a fire suppression system, restoration of all of the remaining animals, chariots and decorative panels including ceiling panels and rounding boards, and maintenance of the Wurlitzer organ. The conservator worked on-site to restore the rounding boards. Layers of paint were removed, a protective coating applied and faces repainted. The work was accomplished on-site during the fall and spring while the Carousel was closed. During the winter months restoration work was completed on 6 to 8 of the animals in the artist's studio.

The restoration plan took into consideration a number of issues. The carousel was initially donated to the NPS by concerned citizens who purchased it to keep the carousel on its original site before the NPS acquired the site. The stipulation was that the carousel continue to be open to the public and operational. In addition, the NPS found out in the early 1980's that the original paint was still on the carousel figures under layers of additional "park" paint. NPS had to decide how to restore a historic artifact and allow the public to have "hands on" access. The carousel now shows the craftsmanship of the carvers and painters and looks at it did when it was initially installed in the park in 1921.

It was recognized by the Foundation Carousel committee that once the restoration was complete, further funding would be required to keep paint work in its pristine condition. To provide a fund-raising resource the committee raised further funds to create a video record of the restoration. This video was made on-site and at the restorer's studio. It has a number of purposes:

  • Make the public aware of the history and importance of the carousel - have it available in the park interpretive center video booth.
  • Be an efficient way to attract future donors to support the on-going maintenance of the carousel as an attachment to a grant proposal.
  • Provide direct revenue through sales of the video in the park retail store. This video was completed in July 2003 and is available as a resource.

Geographic area covered: Glen Echo Park is part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway and is located in Glen Echo, Maryland. The park is approximately 9 acres.

List of partners and relationships: The National Park Service (NPS) and The Glen Echo Park Foundation, Inc. (Foundation).

Accomplishments to date: There are approximately 90,000 riders during the six summer months the Carousel is open each year. It has become a tradition for Girl Scouts to polish the brass each year before the opening of the Carousel.

The Foundation raised $30,000 from a business with a matching $30,000 from the county, $23, 000 from the public and, $500,000 from a grant. Many hours of volunteer work went into fundraising efforts and working with the NPS in assessing the conditions, determining appropriate solutions and setting priorities for restoring the Carousel.

This summer ridership on the Carousel was at an all-time high.

Key success factors:The complete and accurate restoration of the Carousel using reversible techniques. A topnotch restorer was already working on the project and she was willing and available to take on the additional work and meet the deadlines set forth by the time constraints of the $500,000 donation.

The donor required that the funding of $500,000 be spent and that the donor remain anonymous. The Foundation carried out this mandate extremely well and we, the NPS and the public, are the beneficiaries.

Frustrations: Because the donor wanted to remain anonymous, all correspondence and communications had to go through the Foundation.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. Share what's going on with the public, they love it.
  2. Allow the public to sometimes watch the work in progress.
  3. Involve the public, the park prepared a month long exhibit on the restoration of the Carousel. It was well received and got people interested.
  4. Celebrate success. When the restoration was complete, there was a big celebration, which was highly publicized and very well attended.
  5. Funds can be raised for a well-defined project. Funds cannot be raised fro general mission of "support programs".

What would you do differently next time:

  1. We would work more closely with the Carousel committee, a subcommittee of the Foundation and provide more feedback of why certain decisions were made.
  2. We would organize them better. They were a disparate group and it was hard to get consensus. Volunteers need to be presented the viable options to help them reach consensus.
  3. We would recruit some new and varied blood to be on the committee. There were a number of different agendas vying against each other.

Suggested resource materials: Glen Echo Park Carousel Videos (available from The Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture at Glen Echo), including:
  • Main feature
  • An artist's view of the restoration
  • How best to enjoy your ride
  • The Wurlitzer 165 Band Organ
  • Restoring the Carousel - a technical view
The Carousel Story - the script of the guided tour around the Carousel
The Archived Restoration Reports CD version.
Glen Echo Wurlitzer 165 organ music on-line at http://www.glenechopark.org/glec/caro/carmusic.htm

For more information:

Name: Audrey Calhoun
Affiliation: Superintendent, George Washington Memorial Parkway
Phone/Fax: 703-289-2500
Email/website: Audrey_Calhoun@nps.gov

Name: Karen Pittleman
Affiliation: Site Manager, Glen Echo Park
Phone/Fax: 301-492-6663
Email/website: Karen_Pittleman@nps.gov

Name: Peter Somerville
Affiliation: Former Chairman, Glen Echo Park Foundation (no longer in existence)
Phone/Fax: 301-320-8129
Email/website:

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising _X_; Capital Improvements __; Facility Management __; Trails __; Design __; Program Delivery __; Visitor Services __; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration __; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation __; Arts __; Information Services __; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning __; Tourism __; Community Relations __;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Karen Pittleman Date posted: 10/22/03
Phone: 301-492-6663

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