Use the Activities
Putting It All Together
As cities and towns grow, buildings often are torn down or heavily modified to meet new needs. Each time the Glen Echo site was developed and redeveloped it was to meet the same social need: recreation. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people wanted education, music, and plays with their fun. Later, for many, recreation came to be defined simply as having a good time riding the roller coaster, carousel, or dancing in the Spanish Ballroom. In recent years, fun has again been combined with learning. At Glen Echo the evolution of the site's use has come full circle; the site which started out as a center for education, socialization and recreation is again meeting those same needs a century later. Most communities will not have remnants of a Chautauqua or even an early amusement park, but they will have traditional and evolving social gathering places. Have students complete the following activities to see how their own community is similar to or different from Glen Echo.
Activity 1: Architecture in Your Own Neighborhood
People in every community have special places they go to have a good time. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries these places might have included: Chautauquas, Lycea (halls for providing public lectures, concerts, and entertainment), trolley parks, churches, fairgrounds, fraternal halls, theaters, ethnic clubs, city parks, and baseball fields. Have students determine what were popular gathering places in their communities in the past and what are now important locations for education and recreation. Have students take a walking tour of their neighborhood to see if they can find a recreation or education building or space that was created about the time of
Glen Echo Chautauqua (1891-1892) or the amusement park (1899-1960s). If the neighborhood was built much more recently than Glen Echo, have them look at old newspapers or local history books to see if they can find photos of places of the same vintage as Glen Echo. What kinds of buildings or sites did they find? Did the architect seem to have made specific decisions about construction materials, design and details that related to the intended use? Why might he or she have made those decisions?
Have students pick out one building, park, or other place they especially like (old or recent) and ask them to make a sketch of the place or of design elements (style, decoration, landscaping, etc.) that they think make it special. If the place is a building, have them make notes on construction materials, the number of stories, and the kinds of doors and windows, etc. Does it have any decorative details on the front or anywhere else on the outside? Why do they think the architect chose to include those specific elements in the building? If the place is a park or other outdoor area (fairgrounds, drive-in theater, etc.), have students make notes about what buildings are there. Are they designed to look alike? Do the topography and vegetation look the same as the surrounding area or have features been added or subtracted? Do those features say something about the use of the place? Do they say something about the people who live or work in the area or about the people the place was meant to serve? What are the chances of that place surviving more than 100 years like the Chautauqua tower, or almost 100 years like some of the features of the amusement park? What economic or social factors could cause its destruction?
Sometimes people decide to modify a building to meet new needs rather than demolish it. This can sometimes lead to very interesting combinations; theaters may become churches and churches may become apartment buildings. When old buildings are preserved and new uses found for them it is called adaptive reuse. Through adaptive reuse of the historic structures, the amusement park owners and the National Park Service have been able to keep unusual buildings and use them to fit the ever-changing recreational needs of park visitors. The old Chautauqua tower has been repaired, not redone, and now serves as an art gallery. The amusement park era buildings are also being slowly and gently preserved and serve as classroom spaces. If you were to come to Glen Echo today you could ride the 1921 Dentzel carousel; learn to swing dance in the Spanish Ballroom; or learn to play the flute, paint or draw in the Candy Corner. Are there any examples of adaptive reuse in your community? What do you think about adaptive reuse of old buildings?
Activity 2: An Old Fashioned Independence Day
Have students refer to Reading 1, and note the
program of the Fourth of July celebration held at the
Glen Echo Chautauqua in 1892. Ask students to
reenact this celebration by assuming the roles of the
people who took part, and, if possible, staging the
program for another class. Roles include:
- A master of ceremonies who will introduce the
- A person in costume to recite "The Star Spangled
- A person in costume to recite the Declaration of
- A number of people who will present a grand
musical program with performances by soloists.
Try to assign specific roles to as many class members as possible, and have other students pretend to be a typical audience of a Chautauqua. After the performance, discuss why people would have participated in such activities. Have them research to see if this kind of program was ever held in their own community. Could city parks serve the same role as the Chautauquas once did? Ask what people do now to celebrate the Fourth of July. How are current celebrations alike and different from the celebration of 1892? Ask them to discuss what other alternatives were available for entertainment in those days. Remember that in 1892 there was no recorded music, and moving pictures had yet to be invented. Which type of celebration, old-fashioned or contemporary, do they think would be the most fun?
Activity 3: Recreation and Segregation
Segregation and discrimination, both de jure and de facto, occurred (and still occurs) in many localities across the nation. Have students research the history of their community to see what groups faced prejudice in the past and those who are facing it today. Research activities include the following:
Talk to a long-term resident in their community and find out if there ever was segregation in their town or city. Was it enforced by law or was it based on some other factorhousing patterns, for instance?
Investigate what groups were discriminated against. Groups that have faced discrimination in varying degrees include, but are not limited to, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians, Irish, southern and eastern Europeans, and the poor. Did any of these groups face discrimination of the type practiced at Glen Echo Park? Do they still?
Trace the history of racial and ethnic relationships in the community and in their school. What evidence do they find that discrimination is still a part of their community's culture?
After students have completed their research, have them present their findings to the class and then discuss what they could do to promote more interaction within the community. Have them draw up a list of potential activities that would make the community more pleasant for all and which would also provide fun and cultural knowledge for people of different backgrounds.