Music at Chevy Chase Lake, 1931 to 1937
Did the Music Stop in 1931?
Was Chevy Chase Lake closed for the 1931 season? There were no publicity notices about musical entertainment in local newspapers, so we cannot be sure if Chevy Chase actually operated as an amusement park or dance venue that year. One small notice, published in The Washington Post on May 17, states that the members of the “nature section” of the Twentieth Century Club would meet at the lake on a Saturday at 10am. But other activities remain a mystery. Did the management, of which Meyer Davis was a partner, dissolve? If so, was this by choice, or were there circumstances which forced this to happen? This was one of the worst years of the Great Depression, so that may account for this abrupt end of publicity notices.
Another possible explanation is the Land Company’s efforts to change the zoning of the property around Chevy Chase Lake. In 1932, there were a number of news articles about the proposed re-zoning of this parcel of land, and for Land Company holdings on Wisconsin Avenue just north of Western. On May 11, an article on p. 11 in The Washington Post listed the hearing dates for the County Commissioners to consider a proposed re-zoning classification of these two parcels of land. The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission had previously voted against the rezoning of both land parcels after local residents objected to new development involving apartments and commercial land uses.
In June, 1932, a series of articles in The Washington Post described the debate about zoning in more detail. At the first hearing, as reported on June 17, p. 13, more than 75 residents appeared before the Commissioners, some in favor of the new zoning and other against it. The Commissioners did not make a decision that evening. On June 22, p. 11, the newspaper reported that the Commissioners received additional testimony in support of rezoning from a large landowner, Col. Morse K. Barroll, who lived on Saul Road and owned property on both sides of Connecticut Avenue north of Chevy Chase Lake.
Application for a Permit for the Dance Pavilion at Chevy Chase Lake
But in an interesting last sentence in the June 22 news report, it was reported that the Commission had received an application “for a permit to operate the Chevy Chase Lake dance pavillion [sic].” This suggests that during the planning process to re-zone the property around the lake, the dance pavilions had not been open.
As reported in a June 26, p.8 article in the Washington Post, “Board Plans Study of County Rezoning,” the Montgomery County Commissioners decided to put off any decision until a “thorough study” could be made.
“Two public hearing have been held, at which groups of property owners appeared to argue for and against permitting erection of apartment houses on Wisconsin avenue at the District line and apartment houses and stores on Connecticut avenue at Chevy Chase Lake. Both sides presented copious argument and the commissioners feel that the decision is momentous enough to the future of the county to require considerable study.”
Eventually the land was re-zoned, and the apartments, stores and offices were built, but that would be long after Chevy Chase Lake stopped operating as an amusement park and dance venue. But the application for a permit for the dance pavilions must have been approved within the month. On July 2, 1932, a small display advertisement on p. 10 of The Washington Post announced the opening of Chevy Chase Lake:
“Chevy Chase Lake Opens Tonight.
Dancing. Jack Newton managing.
Barnes Thompson and His Ambassadors.”
A new manager, and new orchestra. The ad ran again, on July 4. And the “nature section” of the Twentieth Century Club once again met there, as noted in the The Washington Post on October 2.
Eddie Carr takes over the Management, and the Music…
Eddie Carr was named as the manager of Chevy Chase Lake in a May 17, 1933, p. 4 article in The Washington Post which announced that the park was open for the season:
“Eddie Carr, who has leased the park for a second season, has a few surprises in store for his guests. For some weeks a crew of workmen have been carrying out plans of the management to cater to the wants of the great following that developed as the result of a change in policy."
Eddie Carr must have taken over the management from Jack Newton sometime during 1932. Mr. Carr had experience in real estate sales and development, but according to his Washington Post obituary, May 16, 1974, p. C12, he “loved show business.” He had many talents: in addition to playing semi-pro baseball as a young man, he was also a musician, and before he went into the real estate, he worked in the motion picture business. By the early 1930s, he had built houses in Washington and in Chevy Chase, though the Depression set him back financially as it did many others. Mr. Carr would later go on to head the National Association of Home Builders, and his firm Carr Homes would build thousands of homes in Virginia, but for a few years in the 1930s he used his considerable charm, energy, and interest in music, not to mention his remarkable skills as a producer and impresario, to bring major orchestras back to Chevy Chase Lake. These dance orchestras were more likely to be racially integrated, and also included those led by Cab Calloway, his sister Blanche Calloway, and Luis Russell.
In addition to sprucing up the facilities at Chevy Chase Lake, Carr hired Bill Strickland and his Capitolians as the regular house band at the two dance pavilions. From the May 17, 1933 article in The Washington Post:
“Strickland has a great combination of music makers and has mastered all of the latest dance hits to present to a dance hungry set from the start."
Beer is Served for the First Time at Chevy Chase Lake
Another big change -- perhaps the "change in policy" referred to in the May 1933 publicity notice, was the addition of the new “English Beverage Garden.” Prohibition, the ban of alcoholic beverages, was signed into law in 1919. Because the amusement park had always been “dry," no alcohol had ever been served. Because of this tradition, Prohibition had little impact on the amusement park in the 1920s. In March 1933, however, the U.S. Congress passed a Constitutional amendment to repeal Prohibition. In December 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified by all the states, and the sale of alcoholic beverages became legal. But during the amendment ratification process, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill that allowed 3.2 percent beer and wine to be sold. Thus, in the 1933 summer season, patrons at Chevy Chase Lake were able to purchase “light” beer and wine along with other refreshments at the new “English Beverage Garden.”
The Chevy Chase Lake Musical Program for 1933 and 1934
During the 1933 season, Eddie Carr booked a series of dance orchestras as well as vaudeville performers, and promoted them consistently in The Washington Post. Here’s a brief list of musicians and performers, with the date and page of the publicity notices and display ads in the newspaper:
Publicity Notices and Display Ads from The Washington Post in 1933:
July 12, p. 14: Johnny Brown’s White Fleet Orchestra… and 3.2 beer
“Chevy Chase Lake has stepped out among ‘the bigger and better’ hot night spots these past few days with the engagement of Johnny Brown’s White Fleet Orchestra.”
“…Eddie Carr, former film man, under whose management the lake resort has taken on new spirit! 3.2, to be concise about it!”
July 21, p. 5: Gene Duncan, a dancer – an evening of “beauty, breezes, and brew”
“Out at Chevy Chase Lake tonight, Eddie Carr, the energetic and enterprising entrepreneur, is presenting as a special added attraction, Miss Gene Duncan, a 16 year old protégé of Ned Wayburn, who is declared to be in a class by herself as an acrobatic and novelty tap dancer. Mr. Carr, an old film star himself, thus offers a practically unbeatable symposium of beauty, breezes, and brew—an almost perfect prescription for these hot nights.”
July 26, p. 14: A Beauty Pageant to select Miss District of Columbia
“Approximately 100 girls are expected to participate in the beauty contest to be held at Chevy Chase Lake tonight and Friday night for the title of Miss District of Columbia and the opportunity to represent the City of Washington in the Atlantic city pageant of Beauty in September.”
“Arrangements have been completed by Eddie Carr, manager of Chevy Chase Lake, to make these two nights the high spots of his summer season.”
August 3, p. 16: Mal Hallet Orchestra, a well-known Boston-area band
“Pursuant to the custom recently inaugurated by Eddie Carr, who is personally conducting the resort to its most substantial success in recent seasons, Chevy Chase Lake announces the engagement for tomorrow night only of Mal Hallett and his orchestra."
August 10, p. 16: Ted Black and his Orchestra
“The Prince of Wales’ favorite band” was the title given Ted Black and his orchestra after their recent European tour…
Sept 6, p. 14: Cab Calloway and His Cotton Club Orchestra
“An extraordinary attraction is booked for tomorrow night only at Chevy Chase Lake, where Eddie Carr, former film man, is revealing recurrent flashes of keen showmanship as the summer wears on. For those who like to shake a toe to “hot” tunes, Mr. Carr has booked in Cab Calloway and His Cotton Club Orchestra, for tomorrow night only at the Lake. It is Cab Calloway and his bunch, by the way, who are sounding off on the Earle screen this week, in a “Betty Boop” cartoon comedy, “The Old Man of the Mountain,” one of the cleverest releases in the series. He may have the old man with him out at the Lake tomorrow night, you’d better hope not!”
Publicity Notices and Display Ads from The Washington Post in 1934
And the same pattern was repeated in 1934, with multiple display ads and publicity notices placed in the Washington Post. But this season, Al Stern joined Eddie Carr:
May 30, p. 5: Display ad for Chevy Chase Lake, featuring Geo. Hefeley
Hefeley’s band was described as “Broadway’s Roseland Sensation.” Admission was 50 cents and included dancing for the whole night, from 9pm to 1am. “Admission to Park and Dancing in Bandbox FREE TONIGHT.” The tag line of the ad still says “End of Conn. Ave. Car Line”
June 6, p. 12: Willard Alexander and his orchestra, plus the Duke Collegians
“After presenting Willard Alexander and his 12 piece orchestra tonight, Chevy Chase Lake has booked the Duke Collegians, popular dance band from Duke University, for a one night engagement Friday, according to Al Stern and Eddie Carr, Lake managers.”
June 13, p. 11: George Hall and his Hotel Taft Orchestra, with vocalist Loretta Lee
“Continuing its presentation of outstanding dance orchestras to the local public, Chevy Chase Lake, under the joint management of Eddie Carr and Al Stern, tonight will present George Hall – recently at the Fox – and his famous Hotel Taft Orchestra, together with his celebrated little vocalist, Loretta Lee.”
June 27, p. 13: Blanche Calloway, the “Queen of Jazz,” and her Harlem Orchestra
“Blanche Calloway, the ‘Queen of Jazz’ – a name she rightfully earned – and her sensational Harlem Orchestra will be the featured attraction at Chevy Chase Lake tomorrow night, Al Stern and Eddie Carr, managers of the nearby Maryland dance resort, definitely announced last evening.”
July 5, p. 7: Willard Alexander and his orchestra, plus vaudeville entertainment
“With a special holiday program scheduled for tonight, Chevy Chase Lake has completed arrangements for a return engagement of Willard Alexander and his popular orchestra Friday night, according to late announcement by Managers Eddie Carr and Al Stern.”
“Between dances at the Lake tonight, patrons will be entertained by theatrical features, led by Brice and Janita, ballroom dancers, Mary Eller, acrobatic dancer, and Alfred Odone, vocalist. This will be in the nature of a holiday “treat” supplied by the management.”
July 12, p. 22: Luis Russell and his Old Man River Band
“One of the “big seven” colored orchestras in the United States will be presented at Chevy Chase Lake tonight by Managers Eddie Carr and Al Stern, when Luis Russell and his “Old Man River” Band will be heard for one night only.”
“… It comes to Chevy Chase Lake tonight direct from a long engagement at New York’s famous Roseland.”
July 18, p. 10: Display ad, Mal Hallett, “Dance King of New England,” plus Ted Black & his orchestra
In this display ad for Mal Hallett and Ted Black, admission is only 65 cents – “no extra charge for dancing.”
July 25, p. 14: Marion Bergeron, Miss America of 1933, and Morton Downey, famous tenor
"Dance Resort’s Big Week"
“Presenting Miss Marion Bergeron, ‘Miss America of 1933’, as tomorrow night’s special attraction and Morton Downey, popular stage, screen, and radio tenor, with Joe Haynes’ Orchestra, Friday night, Eddie Carr and Al Stern, managers of the rejuvenated Chevy Chase Lake, this week will offer one of the most pretentious programs in the history of the Capital’s alfresco dance resorts.”
Aug 10, p. 10: Lee Fields Orchestra
“Chevy Chase Lake is turning itself upside down with new ideas, new policies, new patrons, and new good times. The big orchestra, led by Lee Fields, is there to stay for the rest of the season.”
“If you don’t want to dance you can sit in the – garden is an inadequate term – hillside, and sip beer and munch pretzels and listen to the music. Whisper softly. There’s no extra charge for the listening.”
Click to the next page to learn about the LAST TWO YEARS of Chevy Chase Lake, 1935 and 1936.