For 99 years, 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.”
The carousel was manufactured by the Dentzel Carousel Company and brought to the park in 1921 installed in a 12-sided canopy building in 1921. 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 stand in three concentric rings. The carousel moves to the music of a 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” 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 where 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.
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 organ.
The carousel and 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, 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 needs 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 its 99th year of operation, the roof will be replaced and repainted, and support structures will be replaced. Additionally, the organ sound amplification features will be 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.
October 2020 Update
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.
Last updated: October 20, 2020