Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Red Wagon Inn, 1956

I recently scanned some nice photos of Disneyland, circa 1956, and am looking forward to sharing them with you over the next several weeks (or months). 

Perhaps the fanciest eatery in the park in those early days was the Red Wagon Inn. A number of Disneyland Main Street buildings (Main Street Station, City Hall) were based on actual structures, I wonder if this one was as well? 

Over at Werner Weiss's wonderful Yesterland site, he shares a quote from 1955: The Red Wagon Inn is one of several charming eating places in Disneyland. It is resplendent in the elegance of a by-gone area reminiscent of the famed eating houses of yesterday. All appointments are authentic mementos of the gay and glamorous 90’s—including the stained glass ceiling, entrance hall and foyer taken from the St. James home in Los Angeles, one of the West’s most noted old mansions. Atmosphere, however, is not confined to the building alone. The menu itself brings back visions of historic good eating—featuring steaks and chops.

I love details like the weather vane that looks like (what else?) a red wagon being pulled by a horse. Hey, there's a helicopter! Darn paparazzi. 

Here's a view from the Inn's steps, looking past the attractive sign toward the Plaza and Sleeping Beauty Castle. So much grass! So many trees! So few Wookies! While this is not an exciting scene, it conveys how beautiful the park was in those early days.

Stay tuned for more pix from the 1950's!


Nanook said...

I love seeing images from the Red Wagon Inn - and these are no exception. It's nice to know its existence under that name lasted exactly 10 years.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Interesting pic, with the chopper! It looks like a kid's remote control toy, about to land on the roof of the restaurant!

Today, there is a corn dog wagon parked just about where those two women's heads are, in the first pic!

Andrew said...

Could've the helicopter been heading to the heliport? Or we can pretend that Walt was up there, Arnold Schwarzenegger-style. ;)

Melissa said...

Kind of sounds like the Crystal Palace at WDW before it became a character buffet.

Those girls in white dresses have forgotten their blue satin sashes.

K. Martinez said...

The second image is quite nice with the sign and Castle. Red Wagon Inn/Plaza Inn was my favorite restaurant at Disneyland for many years and still is, but it doesn't feel as grand as it once did. Just my opinion of course. Thanks, Major.

Melissa, I always considered WDW's Crystal Palace to be the equivalent to Disneyland's Red Wagon Inn/Plaza Inn.

JC Shannon said...

Walt's Disneyland never disappoints. That helo is an added bonus. Hey Melissa, now I have that song stuck in my head. Thanks Major.

Stefano said...

I bet 1950s-60s kids were intrigued by this restaurant's name, given how many of them were pulling Radio Flyer Red Wagons around. And those wagons are still for sale! Either they never lost their popularity, or like vinyl records made a splashy comeback.

Chuck said...

Andrew, the Disneyland heliport moved twice. It's original location was just outside the Park near the Tomorrowland employee entrance, while the second location was a hundred yards or so south of that, in the NE corner of the parking lot. I can't remember off the top of my head when it moved across the street from the Disneyland Hotel, but it was no later than 1962.

Anyway, that Los Angeles Airways Sikorsky S-51 is almost certainly departing the Disneyland heliport.

Nice photos today, Major - perfect for a day when you're stuck home with the flu.

The Magic Ears Dudebro said...

Never been to Disneyland, so I have no idea what the Red Wagon Inn was like. From the looks of it, it seems similar to the Crystal Palace in Disney World. I've eaten there at least once. Real pricy but the food is good. Personally, I prefer Casey's Corner. They have footlong chili cheese dogs. Those are a good lunch to start a day at the park. :D

Stu29573 said...

Great, now I want a steak.
Actually, I've gotten the dining plan at WDW several times. I almost ALWAYS get steak. My wife, a vegetarian almost ALWAYS gets salmon. Its amazing how many great ways those basics can be prepared!
Ok, now I really am hungry...

Anonymous said...

Fine pictures today, Major.

The Victorian style was known for elaborate decorations and the Red Wagon was no exception. I only recall this place as the Plaza Inn, but many fine memories accrue.

It has lost a little of the elegance with subsequent remodelings, but it is still a good destination.

I have vague memories of the helicopters flying overhead, but that's all. Wouldn't remember them at all without the prompting of the photos. Thanks for the background, Chuck, and the aircraft ID, I knew you would know.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I like that Walt wanted to provide places to eat that were much nicer than what American’s typically found at amusement parks, when most folks would be happy with a bench and a hamburger (Disneyland had those places too of course).

TokyoMagic!, yes, it’s a miniature helicopter! Bob Gurr is hiding behind the cupola of the restaurant, that scamp. Nothing says “old time America” more than a corn dog wagon.

Andrew, I am quite certain that the helicopter is from L.A. Airways.

Melissa, oh man, I didn’t know that the Crystal Palace now did character buffets. I guess it’s what the people want? You have to book those ahead of time and pay extra, I presume.

K. Martinez, I think I’ve read that some of the original antique decorations from the Plaza Inn have been removed over the years. The “bit by bit” dumbing down, or classing down, or something, it is insidious.

Jonathan, er, what song? “Tequila”? That song is always stuck in my head!

Stefano, I never thought about the Radio Flyer wagons, which of course were red. We had a neighbor who had one of those on our street, which was on an incline. They loved to hop in and let it careen down the middle of the road - they crashed a lot, but somehow never got hurt. Now I see more toy wagons at garden shows - men and women loading them up with plants to take home.

Chuck, we agree on the helicopter, but (as usual) you have provided way more information! It makes sense that the move to the Disneyland Hotel area would be right around the time that the Monorail station was added. All your transportation needs in one stop!

The Magic Ears Dudebro, I’ll have to go look at photos of the Crystal Palace, I thought that it was more along the lines of buildings from long-past World’s Fairs, but could easily be mistaken - you’ve never been to Disneyland, and I’ve never been to WDW!

Stu29573, it’s only 9:48 in the morning, but a nice grilled steak with a baked potato and maybe green beans sounds pretty good! Maybe I should eat breakfast for once. My brother in law grills salmon on a cedar plank, it comes out really good!

JG, Walt definitely liked the Victorian look, it seems like it represented the ultimate in luxury to him, at least for a time. Sometimes when there’s a picture with a helicopter seemingly close overhead, I’m surprised that I don’t see lots of guests looking upward at it, but nobody ever seems to pay it any mind.

Anonymous said...

Major, I'm sure that Walt's fondness for the Victorian look has the same roots as our nostalgia for 60's and 70's coffee shops and motels, to say nothing of our fascination with the Disneyland of our youth.

I'm grateful that he had the money and talented designers required to pull it off in such grand style. It's one of the hardest styles to emulate well due to the complexity and expense, and the change in the preferences of proportions over time.


Melissa said...

It's been a few years, but the last time I was there the Crystal Palace was one of the more reasonably-priced character meals. And the food was better-than-average buffet fare. Lots of nice salads and desserts.