Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

  • Arts & Culture
  • 1971

“You have many parks for recreation, but you have nothing in the performing arts,” Catherine Filene Shouse told the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. “Do you want Wolf Trap?” Heiress to the Filene’s department-store fortune, Shouse was offering her family’s farm located just outside Washington, D.C. Soon, Congress accepted the gift of 100 acres of land plus funds to build a 6,800-seat open-air theater, and in 1971 the venue opened just in time to capitalize on the massive expansion of Washington’s Virginia suburbs. Ten years later Shouse donated additional lands and money to create an indoor theater, made by connecting two eighteenth-century barns moved from upstate New York, so the park could host performances year-round. Wolf Trap is run by a private nonprofit foundation set up to program its music and dramatic events, handle marketing, develop educational programs, and raise philanthropic funds so ticket prices can be kept affordable. The National Park Service owns and maintains the grounds and buildings. Still the nation’s only national park dedicated to the performing arts, Wolf Trap has become a favorite cultural venue in the national capital region.