Thursday, April 18, 2019

Grand Canyon Concourse, WDW - November 1971

I am getting down to the last 8 unposted scans (not counting today's) of photos that Mr. X took back when Walt Disney World was brand new. And these are the last featuring the Grand Canyon Concourse.

This first example is one of my favorites; the camera struggled with the low light, but you can still get a feel for how it might have been to dine there at night. I love those lights that could be some sort of alien plants! And to sit there while the quiet Monorails came through the atrium must have been the coolest. Is there still a restaurant in the same area today? Love those weird acrylic trees too.

There appears to be a counter-service option below. I guess the Monorail is unloading (or loading) some passengers, who (I believe) had to descend stairs to access things like elevators. To our right is part of the massive tile Mural designed by Mary Blair, a feature that does so much to warm up what might come across as a rather cold and imposing space.

I wondered if the famous five-legged goat might be visible here, but apparently it is on one of the side panels. Boo. The mural has a wonderful mid-century style with a theme saluting the Native Americans of the Southwest. 

Thanks to Mr. X, as always!


Nanook said...


Chef Mickey should be in the location as seen in the first image. And, not to worry, guests can access 'things like elevators', and the like, utilizing escalators - originally made by Haughton - as were the first set of elevators.

As with many of your readers - images of the Grand Canyon Concourse always conjure-up very strong memories; and these images are no exception.

The usual thanks to Mr. X & you.


In 1971 The Contemporary Resort’s GRAND CANYON CONCOURSE featured several restaurants and lounges. Chef Mickey, originally was THE GRAND CANYON TERRACE - the coffee shop type restaurant of The Contemporary. Separated but a section of “The Terrace” was THE PUEBLO ROOM - more of a steakhouse. Both these are the restaurant in these photos. The two spaces were merged together to become CHEF MICKEY.
At the south end of the hotel was the the high end GULF COAST ROOM - this was dress up only and like TOP OF THE WORLD had a strict dress code ( no worries: the contemporary has its own tux rental shop!!) along the windows facing Bay Lake was COCONINO COVE LOUNGE - a bar featuring cold and hot appetizers. The location was first called THE MONORAIL CLUB CAR - where the famous WDW cocktails Monorail Purple , Monorail Pink etc that are still served today. Next to the COCONINO COVE was the OUTER RIM , a intimate serving Dinner only - also featuring views of BAY LAKE. Most of these original lounges and restaurants were operating into the late 1990’s.
THE CONTEMPORARY is my favorite hotel - especial during its original layout. Great images - bringing back memories from long ago.

Melissa said...

Foxxfur has an incredibly detailed and exhaustively researched piece on the history of all the restaurants and shops in the Grand canyon Concourse from opening day to present day over at the Passport to Dreams Old and New blog. It makes for a really interesting story.

It really is a very special place - awe-inspiring and warm and friendly at the same time. I wish those trees with the transparent "leaves" were still there.

I thought I had spotted twin guests at the far left in the first picture, but it appears that they're Cast Members in matching costumes. Slippin' in my old age.

Chuck said...

This place was amazing. I really wish you could have seen it then, Major.

Melissa, is this the article you're referring to?

K. Martinez said...

1970's Walt Disney World was the best. I love pics featuring the Contemporary Resort's Grand Canyon Concourse with those wonderful acrylic trees and Mary Blair's massive mural. It all went together so naturally.

It's too bad Disney didn't make an effort to try and move Mary Blair's Tomorrowland Murals over to the Disneyland Hotel. It would've made a great counterpart to WDW's Contemporary.

All good things eventually come to an end, but I'm grateful to Mr. X for generously sharing his early Walt Disney World photos with us. Thanks Mr. X and Major.

JC Shannon said...

The Mary Blair mural is to die for. Coolness beyond description. The entire layout of the concourse screams the future, as seen in the early seventies. You can almost see a young James Kirk, sipping coffee and figuring out how to beat the Kobayashi Maru scenario. Last Monorail leaving for the Academy in ten minutes. Thanks to Mr X and Major for the fantastic scans.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, Mickey Mouse sure had a lot of jobs. Fireman, giant-slayer, chef… he could do it all. And I don’t know why I said “stairs”, when I have actually posted a photo (or two) of the escalators in the Contemporary Resort.

Mike Cozart, If you ask me, those original names for the restaurants were so much better. I liked that they kept the Grand Canyon theme consistent. I wonder why they were changed? Perhaps, much like EPCOT, guests complained that they wanted more Mickey and the other characters in their vacation experience. I also love that they used “coconino”, which had to be a callback to the Nature’s Wonderland Mine Train. Thanks for all the great info!

Melissa, all of Foxxfur’s articles are amazing, and I have seen her multi-part treatise on the many changes at the Grand Canyon Concourse. I’d be perfectly happy to go back and re-read “Passport to Dreams Old and New” in its entirety! Ha ha, I see the “twins” now, I guess those are waiter’s jackets they are wearing.

Chuck, ME TOO!

K. Martinez, oh my gosh, what a brilliant thing it would have been if Disney had saved Mary Blair’s Tomorrowland murals and moved them to the Disneyland Hotel! The thought never occurred to me. Imagine how popular they would be today. You should be working for The Mouse!

Jonathan, much of Mary Blair’s lifetime of work (at least what I’ve seen for Disney animation) was fairly small - it must have been quite an experience for her to see the murals she created for the parks, so enormous and amazing! Speaking of Star Trek, the movie “Into Darkness” filmed some outdoor scenes at a local museum (it was supposed to be Star Fleet headquarters I think). Now when I go there it always makes me think of the movie.

Nancy said...

absolutely love this. my favorite WDW decor

thanks for sharing these!! :D

Melissa said...

@Chuck Yes, that's the one! Thanks for digging it up!


Major: I agree- the original nomenclature was very cohesive and encompassing. I always wondered why the Southwest theme was chosen - but it was probably unique to Florida and Southwestern-Mod architecture was very popular in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Early on some of the Contemporary Resort refereed to the open center atrium to be like a “21st Century Cliff Dwelling of the Southwest” ..... I always wondered if this description inspired the direction of the hotel’s interior.

Also, Imagineering did have every intention of saving both the Mary Blair Tomorrowland corridor murals - but a combination of accidental construction damage and the fact the 1967 tile adhesive made it impossible to remove it entirely without the crumbling of the vintage tiles and the time and cost to try and deal with it was no way in the budget anyhow - hell! The Tomorrowland 1998 project had no budget to begin with!!! I wonder now if technology would provide other options ?

Major Pepperidge said...

Nancy, like Disneyland, parts of Walt Disney World still felt a little raw in those early days, but some places, like the Contemporary Resort Hotel, were better than anyone could have expected!

Mike Cozart, the Southwest theme seems (to me) to be a part of the same concept that would have brought the Thunder Mesa / Western River Expedition to Florida. Sadly the Thunder Mesa (etc) attraction was never fully realized, and clearly the larger Southwest theme was basically abandoned. Jeez, who knew that 1967 tile “stickum” was so tough! I almost wish they’d just cut the gypsum board (or whatever) that the tile was mounted on. Any broken tiles could have been replaced, if they’d been willing to spend the money. Argh, what a foulup. You're right, today's technology is considerably advanced from the 1990's, maybe they could save the murals now. Do it, Disney!

Dean Finder said...

On my last trip to WDW, I wondered if the railings that form a queue at the top of the escalators were a more recent addition due to crowds or original. Now I know. It really does look like the original intent for that platform was for it to operate more like a center-island platform at a subway or train station.

Melissa said...

Looking down at the whole open area from a balcony or from the monorail platform does kind of give you the same feeling as standing on the edge of a big canyon and looking down. Maybe the inspiration for the Grand Canyon Southwest theme came partly from that. (I mean, I'm sure they couldn't wait to decide on the theme until after it was built, but the canyon-y atmosphere may have been predictable.,)

steve2wdw said...

A note on Dean Finders comment....although there has been an extension to the queue, the area without any railing was never used as a loading or unloading spot. The monorails stop at the other end of the platform on the north side of the elevator shafts. I agree that it does look like it was designed to be an open platform, like the subway systems we are used to.

Awesome photos, as usual!