Monday, April 04, 2016

Walt Disney World, November 1971 - The Contemporary Resort

It's time for more photos, taken by "Mr. X" during his visit to Walt Disney World in its first weeks of operation.

The Contemporary Hotel was (and still is) an impressive sight, and it became almost as iconic as Cinderella Castle. Notice the crane - there was still plenty of last-minute construction that needed to be completed. A Monorail is coming - or maybe it's going!

In later years, some nearby structures were removed, and a 15-story tower was added. 

Inside the vast atrium of the Contemorary Hotel, the Monorail sits on the track near some kooky yellow acrylic "trees" (long gone, now). As a kid I always thought that the concept of moving the Monorail right through the hotel was the coolest thing ever; in fact I still think it's pretty cool!

I decided to zoom in on this shop; thanks to the wonderful "Passport 2 Dreams Old and New" blog (check out the amazing history of the Contemporary Resort HERE), I found out that this shop was known as "Plaza Gifts and Sundries". If I was there I would buy three gifts and four sundries.


Nanook said...


Make that 'coming', for the Monorail. Love these images of a brand-spanking-new Contemporary Resort. I have many fond memories from those days, including the wonderfully unique smell in its Grand Canyon Concourse, which seems to have all but disappeared in recent times.

Thanks, Major.


Sorry Major: up until about 1977, The CONTEMPORARY RESORT has a limit of two Sundries per person per visit. It's just the way things were then.

I'll vouch with Nanook --the Grand Canyon Concourse DID have a unique smell -- it was pleasant. It was a mild chlorine (maybe from the carpet or floor cleaners used then??) and a mix of food smells and 70's air conditioning coolant. But if I could buy it in a can, I'd have it on auto-reorder! Now-and-then I'll be in a building today and sometimes catch a faint hint of it triggering a "smemory" taking me back me the 70's and 80's and if I squint my eyes a bit I can see well dressed guests enjoying a beautiful futuristic atrium with indoor gardens, colorful ceramic murals and gleaming monorails whisking by!

There was a small section inside that shop called THE SPIRIT WORLD that sold booze - as a kid I used to get scolded by my grandparents to close the glass cooler doors --they had etched glass panels of the Contemporary Resort's logo on them, and I's rub my fingers along the smooth but bumpy glass.

Nancy said...

Love this place....its where my daughter worked in 2008 during her DCP days. I visited twice that year. :-) She would call me when she got on the monorail at the TTC on her way to work so that I could listen to the narration. Its one of my very fave "rides" at Disney World!

Thanks, Major, for these beautiful views. I so want one of those trees of lights for my 70s apartment!

K. Martinez said...

Yes, the North Garden Wing was removed for the DVC Bay Lake Tower sometime around 2008. I'd be curious as to how many years the South Garden Wing has left.

Even today with all the new resort hotels, only the iconic Contemporary and Polynesian Village interest me. Wonderful set today. It just oozes '70's Disney World. Thanks, Major.

Mark H. Besotted said...

Right in my childhood. So great.

And, as an aside, I'm an extreme logophile. I'm in love with "smemory" and plan to use it five times today. Thanks, Mike!

TokyoMagic! said...

Where was Mr. "X" when he took that first pic? Could he have been aboard the Skyway? I see train tracks in the foreground. I know the Magic Kingdom doesn't have a berm, but was the land really that open between the train tracks and the Contemporary?

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it is amazing how some scents make such a strong impression on our memories; the other day I was out with a friend, and the combined smells of orange blossoms, eucalyptus trees, and other aromas took me right back to being a child in my grandparent’s Encino backyard.

Mike Cozart, I assume that the Concourse smell must have been something like the Pirates of the Caribbean smell - not exactly GOOD, not BAD - that chlorine and indescribable mustiness… people talk about it all the time. I wonder if they really were able to accurately reproduce smells like that in a spray can, would people want to experience them out of context.

Nancy, I know your daughter worked at WDW; very fun that you could listen to the narration on the Monorail through your phone!

K. Martinez, based on what I hear (and I admit that I don’t pay a ton of attention to what goes on in Florida), there is constant construction of new hotels and timeshares at WDW. Mr. X wants to go back when there is no construction going on, and I don’t know if that will be possible.

Mark H. Besotted, each time you use the word “smemory”, please send Mike Cozart a dollar!

TokyoMagic!, I’ll have to ask him, but it was a long time ago, so he might not recall. Is it possible that he was at the Monorail platform? Just a guess on my part. Stay tuned.

Nanook said...

@ Mike Cozart-

"70's air conditioning coolant" - well, let's hope not-! Perhaps it was the result of the last vestiges of very low temperature settings in "the cold deck" of their HVAC system, and the air affected by it. I suspect is was more a combination of cleaning chemicals, 'mechanical' odors (from the Monorail), food & drink, and cigarettes. (One shouldn't discount the contribution from all those cancer sticks - although I think it's a safe bet that "smell" lingered beyond the days when smoking was considered de rigueur...)

steve2wdw said...

The first photo was most definitely taken aboard the WDW Railroad. I would say that the train is passing the area where the Space Mt entrance tunnel now sits, or just south of that spot. The skyway terminal would be to the right. That pond is still there, although it shrunk a bit when Space Mt was constructed. Just beyond this spot, on the way to Main Street, many of the huge oaks still sit along the embankment of the railroad. They are giant, and represent the size that the original trees in both Town Square and the Hub would be had they been left to grow. Love these photos, and really enjoy the acrylic trees in the atrium.

steve2wdw said...

....I should also mention that the monorail track (to the roundhouse) can be seen passing out of sight to the left side of the picture. That road, just to the other side of the pond, used to be guard it's a busy thoroughfare connecting to the northern neighborhoods, beyond the MK.

Chuck said...

Major, these are AWESOME. Thanks so much for the "Passport 2 Dreams" link - that's just the kind of deep research I dig.

steve2wdw, I don't think that first photo can have been taken aboard the WDW Railroad as the tracks (as well as a signal, which is on the right side of the tracks) can be seen at the bottom right of the photograph, but I think your general location is right. Based on the angle of the Contemporary, the pond, the tracks, and most importantly the Monorail track pylons, I'm going to guess this was shot from the ground just south of the Skyway terminal.

K. Martinez said...

The first photo was taken from the Skyway at its lowest point just before heading into the Tomorrowland Skyway Terminal. This view was possible without obstruction of the other Skyway buckets because it was on the Fantasyland-to-Tomorrowland route (clockwise movement, facing the outer areas of the park). It was also the pre-1975 Space Mountain/WEDway PeopleMover era which allowed for really open views. The Tomorrowland-to-Fantasyland route faced the inner areas of the park.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it is true about cigarettes. I hate them, but sometimes walking into a room with that smell reminds me (again) of my grandparent’s house. They both quit when they were in their 70’s, but I still associate that aroma with their house.

steve2wdw, thanks for the info! It’s amazing to think of those spindly trees now being huge oaks, but I’m very glad that they are still there. Stay tuned for more WDW from this set!

steve2wdw, yet more great info. Thanks!

Chuck, Passport 2 Dreams is an amazing blog - FoxxFur’s essays are so good that they make me feel like a dope in comparison! I try to rationalize it by telling myself that mine is a “picture blog”, but it doesn’t help much.

K. Martinez, in a way that makes sense, I have half a dozen other Skyway shots, mostly looking at the Grand Prix Raceway.

Chuck said...

Ken, on further review, I agree with your assessment. A straight line drawn from just north of the old Skyway building to the NW corner of the Contemporary (which is almost in the dead center of the image) would put the Monorail mainline support pylons located just to the north of that curved road that leads to the hotel on the right side of the image, which is precisely where they are in this photo.

Good work, everyone!

Dean Finder said...

There's a LA perfume company that makes a PotC scent as a perfume.
It's close, but not exact.

For me, the quintessential scent of Disney is the old animatronic smell. It's sort of a combination of machine oil, ozone, dust, and Crayola crayon for some reason. In WDW, I find it at the CoP (unsurprisingly). In EPCOT, all of the opening day attractions still have it.

steve2wdw said...

Ahhhh....I didn't have my glasses on when viewing that first picture (and I didn't enlarge it), otherwise I would have seen the tracks. Oh to have 20/20 vision again.'s great seeing these early MK pictures. They take me back to my youth!