Relocation to Washington DC can be confusing and even overwhelming. Where should you live? Big towns or small? Close to the Potomac River or out in the country? Glen Echo is a small community just over the District line close to Bethesda. It has a lot of history, its own post office, a museum, a great restaurant, a sushi carryout and one of the best hardware stores you will ever visit.

The Early Days of Glen Echo

Relocation to DC involves lots of decisions about where to live.  DC is filled with lots of little neighborhoods and communities, both in the city and outside. Like other parts of America, the DC metro area reflect the history of our country as it has evolved over the last 200 plus years. Washington is more than the White House and whichever administration is here.

One of my favorite communities is Glen Echo, a very small town of 125 houses in Montgomery County just over the District line along the Potomac river.  Glen Echo began in 1889 when two brothers, Edward and Edwin Baltzley, bought land along the Potomac River from the Walhonding Road area to Cabin John Creek and named it Glen Echo on the Potomac. They imagined stone castles on this property and nicknamed it  “The Washington Rhine.”  They opened five quarries to provide the stone for the castles that they hoped people would build there. (One of the quarries is still operating on Seven Locks Road.)

The Baltzley brothers were truly entrepeneurs! Their investment in Glen Echo came from money that Edwin had made on the invention of a better mechanical eggbeater which reversed direction halfway through each turn of the crank. The brothers sold the eggbeater patent and factory in 1888 and began investing in real estate.

One of the first houses built there in 1887 was a lovely Victorian home at 5446 Mohican Road which was on the market several years ago for $2.5 million.  Mohican Road winds through wooded lots and grand homes to the top of a hill to the house, known among local residents as the Kimmel Castle.  Initially real estate sales were brisk, but eventually there were rumors of malaria in Glen Echo and sales slowed and then disappeared.


The Chautauqua in Glen Echo

With their real estate empire fading, the Baltzleys redirected their energies and aligned themselves with the emerging Chautauqua movement.

The Chautauqua was an educational movement that tried to unify the Protestant churches by bringing people together for classes, discussions, physical activity, and entertainment. The movement began in 1874 with the first Chautauqua assembly at Lake Chautauqua, NY. The Baltzley brothers gave 80 acres of their land to the National Chautauqua of Glen Echo, which became the 53rd Chautauqua Assembly.

More buildings were constructed, a curriculum set, lecturers hired, and the Chautauqua opened in June 1891. It was a great success with 300 to 400 people staying for the summer, living in tents and picnicking in the park.

The Chautauqua attracted many scholars and social leaders. Clara Barton built a house in Glen Echo for the Red Cross headquarters in 1891.   She lived in the house until her death in 1912 at the age of 90. The house is now owned and managed by the National Park Service, as the first site in the National Park Service dedicated to a woman’s memory.

The first Chautauqua ‘s success was not repeated. In the spring of 1892, there was another outbreak of fever, and rumors of malaria began to spread again. The Chautauqua was doomed.  but the Baltzley brothers did not quit. In the following years they rented the property to various fund raising organizations for various events such as  concerts and recitals.

The Amusement Park at Glen Echo

Relocation to DC means getting to see lots of history and exploring new communities. Glen Echo combines both of these.  After the Chautauqua period the land became home to an amusement park.

In 1899, the Baltzley brothers rented the park to the Glen Echo Company who put in a merry go round, a bowling alley, a band pavilion, and picnic grounds. Hard times in 1903 finally took the property from the brothers, as Alonzo Shaw of Coney Island came in to manage the park. He installed the first Ferris wheel and a roller coaster.

The Washington Railway and Electric Company became the new owner in 1911 and the Glen Echo Amusement Park began toThe Crystal Pool is empty now thrive. Each year a new amusement opened at the park. These included the Crystal Pool, a swimming pool, the Spanish Ballroom for dancing, the Midway, the carousel, a dodgem, skee-ball alleys and shooting galleries, a penny arcade, the Pretzel, the Whip, the Coaster Dips, and the Flying Scooter.  Up through the post WWII years the park was very successful and popular.

Eventually attendance began to wane in the 1950s as theme parks like Disneyland emerged. It also was caught up in the turmoil of the Civil Rights movement since Glen Echo Park originally was not open to all peoples.  Even after it was desegrated, attendance fell.  The park began to deteriorate and eventually closed in 1968.   It sat empty for a number of years, its wonderful bumper car pavilion broken, the Crystal Pool empty, and the Spanish Ballroom sadly silent.  Happily, the National Park Service is now responsible for Glen Echo Park.  It is managed by the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, a non-profit organization that oversees the park’s operations and programming.


The Carousel Restored

RElocation to DC - the carousel at Glen EchoWhen the park was closed in 1968, the carousel was sold to a Virginia collector but local residents became concerned that the carousel would be sold piecemeal. In 1970 the people of Glen Echo raised $80,000 to purchase the carousel and restore it. Today it still runs and is the only carousel of its age and quality that has remained in its original location. It has been loved by generations of Washingtonians.  Every year the carousel closes for the winter – and then reopens with great fanfare. This Saturday is the day that the Park’s Carousel opens for the season!  In addition to riding the carousel, families are welcome to enjoy many other FREE activities throughout the Park including live music & performances, a spring parade and maypole celebration, kids’ arts & crafts, open artist studios & galleries, food trucks, and lots more! Plus, the star of the show: carousel rides!  You can find more information here.

Once you see how much fun it is for your children to ride the carousel at the Glen Echo Amusement Park, your relocation to DC search may be easier!   Even if you don’t move to Glen Echo, at least you will know that there are lots of things to do in the DC metro area that will engage your family and friends as they visit you!


What Else is at Glen Echo Amusement Park?

Glen Echo Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Park Service site. It is managed by the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, a non-profit organization that oversees the park’s operations and programming.

Today, Glen Echo Park continues to serve as a cultural and recreational hub for the surrounding community and attracts visitors from across the region with its unique blend of history, entertainment, and artistic offerings.  One of the season highlights is the Glen Echo Art Festival, typically held over Labor Day Weekend.

Yurts at Glen Echo Art STudios
A Glen Echo Art Studio Yurt

Glen Echo Amusement Park holds a special place in the hearts of many residents and visitors, offering a nostalgic glimpse into the past while remaining a vibrant center of activity and creativity in the present day.  One of the park’s most iconic features is the Spanish Ballroom, a grand dance hall with a stunning Spanish-inspired design.

The ballroom hosts dances, concerts, and events throughout the year, featuring live music and dance performances. For example, on Saturday April 27, 2024, Waltz Time is presenting the annual Viennese waltz ball, An Evening with Strauss in the Spanish Ballroom. A long-time dance presenting partner at Glen Echo Park, Waltz Time Is presenting this dance as a benefit for the Park. Viennese lesson: 8:00pm || Dancing to live music: 9:00pm – midnight Formal attire suggested, no partner required. There will be a Grand March, refreshments, & dance cards with Tickets sold at the door.

Glen Echo Park is also known for its vibrant arts and cultural programs, including theater productions, art exhibitions, workshops, and classes in various artistic disciplines such as pottery, painting, and photography.  The park offers scenic picnic areas and spacious park grounds where visitors can relax, enjoy a picnic, or take a leisurely stroll amidst lush greenery and historic architecture.

Relocation to DC – Why Glen Echo?

Moving to Glen Echo, Maryland, provides an opportunity to enjoy a peaceful and scenic lifestyle while still having easy access to the cultural and economic amenities of nearby Washington DC.

  1. Quaint Small Town Atmosphere: Glen Echo maintains a small-town atmosphere with tree-lined streets, historic homes, and a close-knit community vibe. It offers a peaceful and tranquil environment away from the hustle and bustle of larger cities.
  2. Proximity to Washington DC: Glen Echo is conveniently located just a short distance from downtown Washington DC, making it an ideal choice for those who work or commute to the city. Residents can easily access employment opportunities, cultural attractions, and amenities in the nation’s capital.
  3. Historic Charm: The town of Glen Echo boasts a rich history, with many well-preserved historic buildings and landmarks. Residents can enjoy exploring the town’s heritage, including the historic Glen Echo Park with its vintage amusement rides, Spanish Ballroom, and cultural events.
  4. Outdoor Recreation: Glen Echo is surrounded by natural beauty, with opportunities for outdoor recreation in nearby parks and green spaces. Residents can enjoy hiking, biking, picnicking, and outdoor activities along the Potomac River and in nearby parks such as Glen Echo Park and Cabin John Regional Park.
  5. Strong Community Spirit: Glen Echo has a strong sense of community, with residents actively involved in local events, festivals, and volunteer activities. The town hosts community gatherings, art shows, and cultural events throughout the year, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie among residents.
  6. Excellent Schools: Families moving to Glen Echo will find access to top-rated schools in the Montgomery County Public School system. The area is known for its quality education options, including highly-ranked public schools and prestigious private schools.  Glen Echo is in the Whitman HS, Pyle MS, and Bannockburn ES cluster.  Holton-Arms, Landon and Primary Day are very close.
  7. Cultural Amenities: Despite its small size, Glen Echo offers a variety of cultural amenities, including art galleries, theaters, and music venues. The historic Glen Echo Park is a cultural hub with art studios, workshops, and performances that appeal to residents of all ages.
  8. Real Estate Options: Glen Echo offers a range of housing options, including historic homes, cozy cottages, and modern residences. Whether you’re looking for a charming older home with character or a newer construction, you can find a variety of housing styles to suit your preferences.

Relocation to DC? What’s for Sale in Glen Echo

If you want that small town vibe close to nature and lots of history, then Glen Echo may be the place for you.  With only 122 properties in Glen Echo (and some of them belong to the Post Office, town hall and a few commercial buildings), there are only a few homes at any one time on the market – if at all.  Homes range in size from under 1000 square feet of space to over 4000.  To see what is on the market – if any – now, click here. 

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