Monday, May 09, 2016

The Skyway Chalet, 1956

Rumors of the Fantasyland Skyway chalet's demise have been in the air for well over a year; now, supposedly, its days are truly numbered. I'll be very sad when it is finally torn down, though it has been abandoned since the Skyway closed on November 9, 1994. Yes, over 22 years ago now. Yikes.

Here's a beautiful early photo of the chalet, taken not long after the attraction opened (the official date is June 23, 1956). The evergreens are pretty spindly, but they would quickly grow to create a serviceable little Alpine forest. 

The building looks like it could have been lifted right out of Geppetto's village, with the wonderful carved details and painted devices. I kept hoping that they might make it into a restaurant (snack bar?), or even a souvenir stand, but its elevated placement probably would have made accessibility for wheelchairs and strollers difficult.

Nearby, one would have been able to see Cinderella's "Dream Castle" (as it is called on an old postcard). It almost looks as if it sprouted from the craggy rock formations by magic.


Nanook said...


It's always fun to see the early days of Disneyland, as it looks so extra-clean and full of wide-open spaces. But it also allows us to see all the incredible details so lavishly included in so many structures in the Park that would soon be enveloped by growing vegetation lovingly completing the look of Disneyland.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, all of the trees west of the Skyway have been removed. all of them, all the way to West St. (or whatever they call it now). I think there might actually be one tree left standing next to the old rock arch from Nature's Wonderland. So now there is a very clear view of the old Skyway Chalet from the Mickey and Friends parking structure. The shingles even still have some remnants of blue paint on them. It's rather sad. I'm not sure why they haven't removed the structure at this point. Either it's demise is coming very soon, or perhaps they have some other plans for it? Unfortunately, the Skyway sign post that has been standing (sans it's sign) for the last 22 years, was removed very recently. Oh, what does it all mean?

DrGoat said...

So sorry to hear that TM. Rode the Skyway in the 50s
and loved the Chalet and the surrounding verdant area.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I particularly like that first photo, you can really feel that the area was brand new. In the case of the Skyway Chalet, the little forest that was planted around it really helped to make it feel more like Switzerland and less like Anaheim.

TokyoMagic!, I’ve seen some photos on FB in which it appears as if the Frontierland construction (destruction?) reaches all the way to the Chalet, but I just couldn’t believe that it would go that far (Me: “That can’t be the old Skyway building, can it?”). But your description makes it sound like that’s exactly what’s happened. If they haven’t found a use for that structure in 22 years, it seems unlikely that they’ve figured something out now. They should make it into my own personal apartment!

DrGoat, it must have been great to ride the Skyway back in the 50’s, when it passed over old Fantasyland, Holiday Hill, and Tomorrowland!

K. Martinez said...

I really like the subtle coloring in these two photos. The Skyway gliding over the Storybook Land canal with the terraced flowerbeds was always one of my favorite Disneyland views. I also like that the mechanical structure is visible inside the chalet. Very nice. Thanks, Major.

Nanook said...


I'm loving the idea of the Chalet being turned into your personal apartment. I can just picture it... you'd be marching around in lederhosen, and there'd finally be a real excuse for an oompah band-! (And did somebody say Swiss chocolates-??!!)

Undoubtedly, I too rode the Skyway when Disneyland was in its early stages - certainly when Holiday Hill was still standing - but who remembers it-? Drat-! At least I can remember riding it over and over again in later years, now that it's gone. 22 years - who would'a thunk it-?

Matthew said...

I always like the back side of the Skyway Chalet, where there was hay and what appeared to be a feeding trough for cows and such. I remember too the large wooden pitchfork stuck in the hay. I believe there were some other barn type tools hanging on the wall and I believe a stool for milking those cows... where were those cows anyway? Maybe the whole thing was meant for horses... but the fact of the mater is this... they didn't have to set decorate the back side of the Chalet but they did and that is what makes Walt Disney's, Disneyland so darn impressive. Thank you Imagineers! Keep up the fine work!

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle

Patrick Devlin said...

Wow, that's a terrific first shot of the chalet. I wouldn't have remembered the building as being that substantial. Off to the left of the picture you can see a pretty big pile o' dirt. I wonder if that's the pile we could see from the Hub in that post from a few weeks ago. When the Park is seen without as much vegetation (whether through photos or recent work) one can see just how cozy the layout really is.

And I like seeing the evolution of rock-work over the course of time. I want to spend a couple of weeks following the progression from conceptual drawings in Glendale all the way down to a tradesman with a trowel and brush working stucco in the Park.

Anonymous said...

For all the complaints about the vegetation removal for the current improvements, you would think that plants never grow. These old pics are proof that the original landscaping took hold in a very short time.

With all the backstage reconfiguring going on, maybe there will be a leisurely wheelchair walkway built up to this fine old relic with some plan for reusing it. Maybe as a "Beauty and the Beast Meet and Greet", or a gift shop. We need more of those.

@Patrick, artificial rock-work is a lot of fun. The facilities I have worked with started with sketch watercolor drawings, proceeded to scale models at several sizes, through working scale drawings and eventually full-scale mockups and directly working with the designers in the field to get the look and shape just right. Our designs also had to guard sight-lines to protect the guests from backstage glimpses that would spoil the illusions. This was hard to do in the days before 3d CAD. It was more like sculpture than architecture.

Eventually the work concludes with hand-applied concrete stains and colorants to finish the effect and blend the transitions.

The Disney rock-work is an order of magnitude better than the pedestrian stuff we usually see. I would have loved a chance to work with Disney budgets, concepts and feel for quality, but am grateful for the opportunities I have had otherwise. Makes me appreciate their work even more.

Great post, Major.