Walt’s “luxury” apartment… and how Disney doesn’t understand it…

Dave 0

Having been a tour guide at Disneyland, as well as a park history geek, I’ve read and researched, asked and learned about A LOT of the history in Disneyland. One of the tidbits of history about the park that most people don’t know, is that Walt Disney had a small apartment built over the firehouse on Main St. where he could stay overnight during construction and after the park opened. It is very small though. More like a bungalow. It has a small bathroom, a small closet, a kitchen counter with a sink with a small hotel room sized refrigerator that is open to a medium sized room. That room has many chairs and two small couches to pull out to convert to beds for Walt and his wife Lillian (or their grandkids, etc.)

I was fortunate enough to have been an "apartment host" several times when VIPs came to the park and needed a place to freshen up or just get away from the crowds. It’s a beautiful, small space where Walt spent a lot of his time. This was his space… It’s very special.

So, after the park began doing so well, Walt began to add to the park. When he designed New Orleans Square, he included another private space for himself and his family. It was a "luxury" apartment above the "Pirates of the Caribbean" attraction. Considering the space contains, it’s quit a large space, and much larger than his other "working" apartment.

The new apartment would have a beautiful, long foyer where guests would enter. There would be a large dining room which connected to the Club 33 kitchen, and the dinning room looked out over Royal St. in New Orleans Square. The formal sitting room has a built in bar with two stainless steel sinks and a refrigerator. The formal sitting room leads to a large balcony where guests could watch the parades and shows on the Rivers of America. There’s an informal sitting room, a small gentleman’s room (or smoking room), a room for the grandchildren, a large outdoor patio in the middle of the apartment, and a large master bedroom with a private master bathroom.

Overall, this would have been a beautiful space for Walt to entertain and relax. Unfortunately, he passed away before it come completed. However, it was almost ready to move in to, so the park management decided to have it finished, but no one moved in, and it sat vacant for some time.

In 1998 the luxury apartment was converted to "The Disney Gallery" – an art gallery and shop for the best items for sale in the park. It was a wonderful addition and a suitable fit for the space. For many years visitors were able to see beautiful artwork and see the space that Walt really wanted for himself and his friends and family.

Unfortunately, Disney doesn’t appreciate or understand Walt Disney’s legacy. They’ve proved this by their latest, most offensive decision to date. First, they literally cut the original dining room in half and built a wall so they would have more storage space for the Club 33 kitchen on the other side of the wall. As if that wasn’t enough, they have now CLOSED the Gallery all together. That now means that the throngs of Walt Disney fans are now not able to see a piece of Walt Disney history.

The space has now been (poorly) converted to a guest suite for the company’s most recent ad campaign, where a random guest is selected to stay the night in the suite. Although this sounds great, they company has taken away something special from the other 64,999 people in the park on a busy day. And I’d guess that this space will never again be opened to the public.

What’s even more sad, is that they company can’t even get it’s own history correct. Here’s the caption on a photo of Walt in an ad for the price:
"Walt’s planned guest suite at Disneyland — soon to be created at last."
This was -not- going to be a guest suite. This was going to be -HIS- suite. There was only 1 bedroom. The private entrance to the apartment was from backstage! It is so sad that the company cares so little about Walt’s legacy and about the few very special spaces in the park that still had Walt’s personal touch.