Introduction, Page 2
What to Look for in this Online Exhibit
In this exhibit, made possible in part with funding from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, Maryland, we explore Chevy Chase Lake as an early amusement park, from its opening in 1894 to its final season in 1936.
Although no admission was charged at Chevy Chase Lake, it was not open to everyone. In this section, we look at the efforts by the management of the amusement park to keep out “rowdyism” and ensure the safety of women and children. Like other privately owned parks in this period, Chevy Chase Lake did not allow people of color to attend, and we discuss this practice, especially in the early years of the amusement park’s operation.
James Pugh moved to Chevy Chase with his family in 1904. Around 1910, he and his brothers worked as hat check boys at the dance pavilion at Chevy Chase Lake. They also caught frogs and sold them to the Columbia Country Club. In 1976, then a retired circuit court judge, Mr. Pugh wrote a brief memoir of his experiences at Chevy Chase Lake. Both his memoir and a hand-drawn map of the lake are presented in this section of the online exhibit, providing a detailed image of the amusement park around 1910 - 1912.
Here we survey the many different kinds of amusements offered to patrons of Chevy Chase Lake: picnic grounds, swings, a merry-go-round, boating, bowling, and special attractions like tight rope walkers and outdoor movies.
Although not part of the regular amusement park season, winter skating at the lake was promoted in advertisements, as well as signs on streetcars. Local residents enjoyed skating on the lake for many years, but there was a tragic accident in 1912, when a young couple drowned.
Evening concerts by Prof. Donch’s Band, and later, a division of the U.S. Marine Band, were popular with patrons of all ages.
The two-step and the waltz were the standard forms of social dancing at Chevy Chase Lake, but from 1912 to 1914, a dance craze, inspired by the syncopated rhythms of ragtime and jazz, introduced controversial new dance forms: the “bunny hug,” the “turkey trot,” and the “tango.” These were called “freak” dances, and at first they were banned at the Lake.
After his band was engaged to play at Chevy Chase Lake in 1916, Meyer Davis went on to manage the amusement park, bringing in his talented bands and band leaders, as well as song and dance teams, and vocalists like Kate Smith.
The famed singer Kate Smith made her debut at Chevy Chase Lake in 1923.
Eddie Carr and others took over the management of the amusement park in the early 1930s, bringing in big bands, and also opening a café that served beer after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
About the Exhibit
Find out more about who helped create the exhibit in this section.
Our sources for the exhibit come from the Chevy Chase Historical Society archives and include photographs, maps, memoirs, and oral histories. Local newspaper accounts provide additional historical context for these artifacts, especially printed publicity notices of coming entertainment acts. In addition, paid advertisements, sometimes small, sometimes large, provide information about special events held at Chevy Chase Lake. Find more information in the "About the Exhibit" section.
Despite the documents and news reports we have collected, we still do not have a complete understanding of what Chevy Chase Lake looked like at different times. For example, we have only a few photographs of people at the lake, even though Kodak’s Brownie camera was introduced in 1900. We wish we had photographs of the bowling lanes, the shooting gallery, the beautiful band shell, and the dance pavilions that are described in oral histories in the CCHS collection. Can you help us?
Please let us know if you, or your family, have additional snapshots or any other historical evidence related to Chevy Chase Lake. Your help, and your comments, will be greatly appreciated!
In the next section of the exhibit, learn about "Trolley Parks."