Glen Echo began in 1891 as a National Chautauqua Assembly "to promote liberal and practical education, especially among the masses of the people; to teach the sciences, arts, languages, and literature; to prepare its patrons for their several pursuits and professions in life; and to fit them for the duties which devolve upon them as members of society."
By 1900, Glen Echo was on its way to becoming a premier amusement park, and it served the Washington area as such until 1968. Today the park has come full circle, the land and the historic buildings a back drop for a rich arts education program. Since 1971, the National Park Service at Glen Echo Park has been offering year-round activities in dance, theater, and the arts for the surrounding communities and for visitors from across the country. The park also administers an artist-in-residency program providing the public with an opportunity to see artists at work. There are concerts, demonstrations, workshops, and festivals during the warm months as a part of the Chautauqua Summer season. In addition, the antique hand-carved and hand-painted Dentzel carousel, saved by community effort, operates four days a week from May through September, and the Gallery and Bookshop features park artists in its exhibits.