Disney World was thisclose to being built in a midwestern city
You know Disneyland is located in sunny Anaheim, California. You know Disney World is located in sunny, hot, humid Orlando, Florida. But did you know that the World was almost located somewhere completely different?
On Thursday, plans for “Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square” go up for auction. These plans are the original blueprints for the St. Louis, Missouri theme park. Yes, Missouri. Yes, once upon a time Walt Disney almost built a theme park in the midwest.
With the success of Disneyland, the Disney Company started looking to the future of their parks in the late 50s, early 60s, and began scouting out new locations for a second park. Location and money were a huge factor, because Walt was looking for a TON of space for not a whole lot of Disney Dollars. That brought him to St. Louis, where the idea was to build a theme park over two blocks of space, and, it would all have been indoors. Yes, a five-story indoor theme park complete with attractions, restaurants, and Pirates of the Caribbean (and yes, this does sound a lot like the current Disney World indoor attraction, DisneyQuest).
This idea was on the fast-track to happen, and Walt even met with the Mayor of St. Louis in 1963 to discuss everything, according to the AP. If St. Louis still sounds like a surprising choice for a Disney park, Walt grew up in Marceline, Missouri, and yes, some of the inspiration behind Main Street U.S.A. came from this midwestern town. Now the idea was to actually put a park there.
But, like many things in life, it all came down to money. According to the Disney History Institute, “Disney was willing to pay for the rides and attractions, but wanted St. Louis’ redevelopment corporation to pay for the building. The corporation declined to do so.” This led Walt to say, “see ya real soon!” and then found this great piece of swamp land in Florida and began building Disney World.
The blueprints that will be auctioned off include 13 pages of designs from 1963, four years before building began at Disney World. The park was very much meant to incorporate its surroundings, and inside you would have found attractions like a Lewis & Clark ride, others inspired by Mike Fink and Davy Crockett, and yes, a Pirates of the Caribbean section. Also maybe the Haunted Mansion, along with shops, dining, and an opera house.
It’s crazy to think of Disney World being located anywhere other than Orlando, but the magic could have happened somewhere completely different. And entirely indoors. If you’ve ever been to Florida, and have encountered one of those mid-afternoon downpours, now’s the time to wonder why ALL of Disney World isn’t inside. Next park! (Hopefully.)
(Image via Disney)