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Exploring the Coaster Dips of Glen Echo Park in 1921

Dive into the history of the Coaster Dips roller coaster at Glen Echo Park in 1921. Learn about the amusement park and tragic story related to Glen Echo. Check out the image of the riders from the time and discover the human love of "going for a ride"!
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The image below is great, especially when you click on it for a larger version. Check out the expressions of the riders … priceless. Relative to what we have today, this is probably a joke, but I imagine at the time this was terrifying and probably the fastest vehicle the riders had ever been in. Not only that, but I imagine the safety measures were vastly inferior (or non-existent). No wonder so many of them are holding on for dear life. The kid in the second to last car just cracks me up.

The roller coaster above, the Coaster Dips, opened in May 1921 and was around until the park closed in 1968. Much to the dismay of local history buffs, the coaster was demolished and burned that year.

Coaster Dips was about 70 feet tall, and at the top, one could see the Potomac River in the distance, before plummeting to the bottom on the rickety wooden coaster.

In true GoDC fashion, I dug up a little story related to the coaster and Glen Echo Park in the newspaper archives. This one is from the Washington Post, published on August 23rd, 1926.

Montgomery County, Maryland. The roller coaster at Glen Echo Park in 1926. (Shorpy)
Montgomery County, Maryland. The roller coaster at Glen Echo Park in 1926. (Shorpy)

Humanity’s love of “going for a ride” is given 50 kinds of expressions at Glen Echo Park.

Recreation seekers can go in for mild aviation on the air rides. They can ride around and ’round on the merry-go-round. They can have water rides on the motor boat course and the romantic “Old Mill.” They can ride the upsy-downsy-daisy on the coaster dips. They can get a centrifugal thrill along with their rides on the “Whip.” They can even have harmless and playful collisions along with their rides on the “Dodgem.”

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A whole flock of different rides, both in the solo and get-together manner are to be found in the “Midway of Fun.” You can have a toboggan ride on the big slide–using your chassis for a toboggan; you can ride on the kiddie cars; and for as long as you can “Take it” you can ride on the spinning “roulette wheel” and in the whirling barrel and on the “jumping horse.”

Even the Crystal Pool has its ride–on the water slide, ending in a mighty splash, and the swimmers, bathers and sun-tanners find it plenty thrilling. In the picnic groves you can have soothing rides that won’t cost you a cent–on the lawn swings.

Too bad this place no longer exists.

I did come across a tragic story related to Glen Echo. This one was in the Post on June 4th, 1929.

A coroner’s jury in Rockville, Md., last night found that William J. Lawrence, 21 years old, Washington drug clerk, who fell from a roller coaster at Glen Echo, Md., Sunday night, died as a result of “being thrown from coaster dip at Glen Echo; causes unknown to the jury.” The body was returned to Corsopolis, Pa., last night. Funeral services have not been arranged.

John E. Mahaffey, 809 Portland street southeast, friend of the dead youth, said that he saw the boy fall from the car, but was powerless to help him. Justice of the Peace A. L. Moore, of Bethesda, acted as coroner and William E. Morgan, of Rockville, was foreman of the coroner’s jury.

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Enjoy daily

Ghosts of DC stories.