Dentzel Carousel

Photograph of a historic carousel with brightly painted carousel horses, one deer and the back of a carousel chariot in front.
Photograph by Bruce Douglas

Virtual History Presentations from the Dentzel Carousel at Glen Echo Park

National Park Rangers at Glen Echo Park are now offering free virtual programs to groups of 10 or more. Please contact Ranger Kevin Patti at kevin_patti@nps.gov or 301-320-1400 to book a program.

Join us as we commemorate the centennial of Glen Echo Park's crown jewel, the Dentzel Carousel, with this talk about its history. As we uncover the last one hundred years, we will learn of the civil rights protests to integrate the segregated Glen Echo Amusement Park that began with a sit-in on the carousel in 1960. We will learn of the heyday of the amusement park during the streetcar era, the closing of the amusement park in the sixties and the efforts to save the carousel and bring the park into the National Park System in the 1970s. We will also see pictures of the beautiful carousel animals carved by William Dentzel's carousel company that have now all been carefully restored.

 
Tiger on the Dentzel Carousel
Tiger on the Dentzel Carousel

NPS Photo

Since 1921, the beautiful Dentzel Carousel has been the centerpiece of Glen Echo Park. The National Park Service is committed to preserving this still operational historical attraction and wants to ensure that it will continue to be the center of the park, and that the music of its lively band organ will continue to resonate throughout the park. In the summer of 2019, the National Park Service, in partnership with Montgomery County and Glen Echo Park Partnership for Art and Culture, began a project to replace the failing roof of the carousel and rehabilitate the historic carousel Band Organ Room.

“During Glen Echo’s time as an amusement park, the Dentzel Carousel was the jewel of the park and it still remains the most treasured centerpiece of the park for visitors,” said Superintendent Cuvelier. “For visitors of any age, an afternoon outing is not complete without a ride on the carousel.”

 
cop talks to blk man on rab
A police officer confronts a protestor on the Dentzel carousel in 1960.

NPS

The carousel was manufactured by the Dentzel Carousel Company and brought to Glen Echo Amusement Park in 1921. It was installed in a 12-sided canopy building in within the heart of the amusement park. Dentzel Carousels are known for their realistic, graceful animals and elaborates carvings. The Glen Echo carousel is called a "menagerie carousel" because of it is made up of many different animals. The 40 horses, 4 rabbits, 4 ostriches, giraffe, deer, lion, and tiger, along with two chariots stand in three concentric rings. Carousel music fills the air from the 1926 Wurlitzer band organ. Only 12 Wurlitzer organs of this style are known to exist.

The carousel was also the location of the initial civil rights protest at Glen Echo Park in 1960. At that time, the amusement park was segregated. On the evening of June 30, 1960, Laurence Henry, a 26-year-old Howard University student, led approximately two dozen “Non-violent Action Group” (NAG) members, both black and white, and two high school students on a protest of Glen Echo Amusement Park. After the high school students were turned away at the park's entrance, Henry and others rushed to the carousel, with ride tickets, purchased on their behalf by white protesters. Once seated, they were confronted by state-deputized security guard Frank Collins. Five of the protesters were arrested, but the protest sparked continued demonstrations at the park, until it was finally desegregated the following year. Today, visitors can still sit on the same animals the protesters sat on.

 
The carousel animals are covered with black tarps.
The Dentzel Carousel animals are covered as the ride prepares to undergo rehabilitation work.

NPS Photo

When the amusement park closed, rides were sold including the carousel. Glen Echo Town councilwoman Nancy Long organized a successful fundraising drive to buy back the park's beloved carousel. Local residents mounted an aggressive campaign that raised $80,000 in private funds to buy the carousel from an organization that had purchased it after the park closed. An additional $10,000 assured the return of the Wurlitzer band organ.

Ownership of the carousel and band organ were donated to the National Park Service with the understanding that they would remain at Glen Echo Park and be operated for public enjoyment.

Last replaced in 2004, by 2019, the carousel roof was showing significant overall deterioration—even punctures— exposing the carousel to the elements. Due to its rotting wood roof and floor, the Band Organ Room needed a complete rehabilitation. The Band Organ Room dates back to 1933 and ensures a safe and secure environment for the 1926 Wurlitzer band organ.

Before Carousel Day on May 2, 2020, and just in time for the carousel's 99th year of operation, the support structures were replaced and the roof was replaced and repainted. Additionally, the organ sound amplification features were upgraded to ensure the band organ music can resonate through the park. The Dentzel Carousel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an exceptionally fine example of the art of a carousel building and because it remains in its original historic location.

 
Carousel Canopy
Newly refurbished carousel canopy.

NPS Image

Update of the work progression in October 2020


Work continues on the Dentzel Carousel. The canopies of the carousel have been repaired and work continues on repainting parts of the damaged mural. The carousel band organ has also been returned after being offsite for refurbishment and storage for over a year. Derwood Center did the refurbishment, which marked the third time the band organ has been refurbished. Rosa Reagan who worked to fix the damaged canopies, also did the organ wood facade refurbishment. Additionally, the copper finial has also been placed back on top of the carousel.
 
Contractor working on mural
A contractor works to repaint a damaged mural.

NPS Image

 

Last updated: November 24, 2021

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Mailing Address:

7300 MacArthur Boulevard
Glen Echo , MD 20812

Phone:

301 320-1400

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