This deep ravine and rocky creep are typical of streams in the Potomac River Valley. Today Minnehaha Creek flows freely through Glen Echo Park. Changes made to the creek during the past 100 years mirror the history of Glen Echo Park.
The arrival of the Glen Echo Chautauqua changed Minnehaha Creek; a large amphitheater was constructed in the creek bed in 1891. Here students gathered for lectures until a malaria scare closed the Chautauqua in 1892. Later, in 1899, a Glen Echo company developed the site into an amusement park. A remodeled amphitheater opened as the "Midway" in 1911.
Glen Echo Park's popularity again changed Minnehaha Creek. In 1956 park owners extended the parking lot by removing the "Midway" and installing a large metal pipe or culvert. For 33 years Minnehaha Creek flowed silently underground until record breaking rains collapsed the parking lot and culvert in 1989. Following the flood, the National Park Service restored the creek's natural stream bed. Look closely along the banks to spot the signs of Minnehaha Creek's past.
Two kinds of landscapes are worth looking at — those that man has never touched, and those in which main has gained harmony.
... the Glen widens, amphitheater like, as if intended by nature for the great auditorium to
seat 8,000 people... The stream flows under the building, which together with one acre of grotto work under the stone floor...lighted by electricity will constitute one of the pleasing features of this vast structure.
Interior view of amphitheater, 1891
The Chautauqua amphitheater, circa 1891
The remodeled amphitheater opened in 1911
An extended parking lot covered Minnehaha Creek, circa 1960
The collapsed parking lot and culvert in May 1989
Restoring Minnehaha Creek, January 1991
Minnehaha Creek today: the natural stream bed restored at Glen Echo Park