BoardWalk Inn & Villas – Part 1 of 3

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Advance To Boardwalk

The concept for a boardwalk was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1870. This resort town had already established itself as a vacation mecca. Beautiful hotels, elegant restaurants, and the Atlantic Ocean beckoned the well-to-do and the middle class to spend a few days or a few weeks in luxury during the summer months. However, the close proximity to the beach caused a problem for businesses. Sand. People tracked it everywhere. It could be found in hotel and restaurant lobbies, in railroads, in guest rooms, shops — everywhere. A solution was needed. The answer came from train conductor Alexander Boardman and hotel owner Jacob Keim. They proposed building a pedestrian walkway out of wood with openings between the slats large enough to allow the sand to fall between. So great was the problem that the city managers agreed to spend half of the town’s yearly tax revenue ($5,000) to build an eight-foot wide wooden walkway that would stretch one mile and be elevated one foot above the sand. The Boardwalk officially opened on June 26, 1870.

Atlantic City Boardwalk

The Boardwalk was a success and in the years to come, was widened and extended several times. In the early years, the Boardwalk was disassembled after the summer season and stored to protect it from the elements. Today, the Atlantic City Boardwalk is 60 feet wide and runs 6 miles. The planks of wood are arranged in a herringbone pattern and are laid on a substructure of concrete and steel. “Boardwalk” is the official street name for this thoroughfare and thus is always capitalized when referring to the street in Atlantic City.

The Atlantic City Boardwalk was the inspiration for Disney’s BoardWalk Inn & Villas, a deluxe property. Designed by architect Robert A.M Stern, this resort would be located on the south shore of Crescent Lake and complement the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, also designed by Stern.

The BoardWalk Inn & Villas would also mark the second Disney Vacation Club Property (DVC) after Old Key West. The resort would be divided in half with standard rooms being located in the “Inn” portion of the resort and DVC units in the “Villas” section. The resort officially opened on July 1, 1996.

Just like Atlantic City in days of old, Disney’s version of this getaway-by-the-sea would feature a hotel, restaurants, shops, nightclubs, and games. The only thing missing is the sandy beach.

This week I will discuss the hotel portion of the resort and the amenities offered. Next week I will cover the BoardWalk Promenade. Note, when discussing the resort, Disney will either split the word in two “Board Walk” or write it as one word while capitalizing the W in “BoardWalk.”

The BoardWalk is located on Epcot Resorts Blvd. As with all Disney resorts, you must check in with a guard before entering the property. Self-parking is a fair distance from the lobby so you might want to consider driving up to the porte-cochère and letting Bell Services handle your luggage when you first arrive. Valet parking is currently $12 per day plus tip.

BoardWalk Entrance

Guard Shack

BoardWalk Hotel Entrance

Porte-cochère

From the porte-cochère you pass through doorways adorned with signs welcoming you to the BoardWalk Inn & Villas. When entering the lobby anteroom, you will come face-to-face with a miniature carrousel.

BoardWalk Hotel Doors

Illions Carrousel

Illions Carrousel

Illions Carrousel

This hand-crafted carrousel was built by M.C. Illions sometime in the 1920’s. Illions was a designer and manufacturer of full-sized merry-go-rounds and built this scale model as a sales tool to demonstrate his workmanship to prospective buyers. It was never his intent to have it publicly displayed. The carrousel features 44 individually carved and painted 4-inch-tall horses. No two are identical. When activated, these horses move up and down, just like their full-scaled brothers.

The carrousel was purchased by the Walt Disney Company in 1995 to be displayed at the BoardWalk. Over a period of one year, Imagineers restored decayed wood, worn mechanisms, and other items in disrepair. Another team researched the original color schemes and decorations used in Illions’ full-scale merry-go-rounds and applied them to this model. Along the way, a few hidden Mickeys were added. Finishing touches included replating brass, applying gold leaf, crafting miniature leather stirrup straps, and replacing the tiny pearl-headed pins that serve as make-believe light bulbs. The Imagineers even scaled the speed of the carousel to match that of the King Arthur Carousel located at Disneyland in California.

After admiring Illions’ carrousel, glance upwards. Here you’ll discover the Hippocampus Electrolier Chandelier. This magnificent work of art features animals that might be found on one of Illions’ creations. In classical mythology, a hippocampus is a sea horse with two forefeet, and a body ending in the tail of a dolphin or fish. In-between the hippocampus are cherubs holding light fixtures. An “electrolier” is a chandelier designed for electric lamps rather than gas or candle.

The Hippocampus Electrolier Chandelier weighs 3,000 pounds and is finished entirely in 22-karat gold leaf, hand-cut Austrian crystal, and custom-blown glass.

Hippocampus Electrolier Chandelier

Hippocampus Electrolier Chandelier

Hippocampus Electrolier Chandelier

The main lobby is bright and spacious. Overstuffed furniture and potted plants sit next to large windows and create a comfortable sitting area. Along the opposite wall are the check-in desks.

BoardWalk Lobby

BoardWalk Lobby

Above the check-in desks is an interesting detail. Within three elaborate gold frames we find depictions of pastoral settings. We also discover the castles of Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disneyland.

Disney Castles

Disney Castles

Disney Castles

Disney Castles

The lobby houses other interesting details. Take for instance this reproduction of Lucy the Elephant that is located south of Atlantic City perched high above the fireplace.

Lucy Elephant

Lucy Elephant

Lucy is six stories high, built out of wood and tin sheeting, and was an example of novelty architecture. Built in 1881 by James Lafferty, this structure was a sales gimmick to promote real estate and attract tourism.

Colossal Elephant Picture

It is interesting to note, Disney has a plaque near their reproduction claiming this is the Colossus Elephant of Coney Island. However, their information is incorrect.

Sitting below the Lucy Elephant and to each side of the fireplace are perhaps the scariest two chairs you’ll ever see. (They scare me, anyway.)

Nanny Chairs

Nanny Chairs

These “nanny chairs” were originally found on 19th century European carrousels. They were intended for adults to rest upon while their children rode the moving animals. These reproductions were cast from circa 1889 originals, hand painted and highlighted with gold leaf.

In this same area is another miniature reproduction, the Flip-Flap Railway which was located in Luna Park. Designed by Lina Beecher and built in 1898, this early coaster featured a 25-foot loop and was the world’s first “upside down loop-the-loop roller coaster.” The circular design of the loop (rather than teardrop used today) created a tremendous amount of g-force and caused its riders discomfort and neck problems. The coaster closed soon after opening.

Flip-Flap Railway

Flip-Flap Railway Picture

The founder of Coney Island Boardwalk’s Steeplechase Park once said: “Paradox: a successful ride must look extremely dangerous yet convincing that the ride is completely safe.” This axiom still holds true today.

Outside of the lobby we find a wonderful covered porch. Furnished with wicker chairs, this is the perfect spot to take a load off and relax in the afternoon and evening. It is here that you discover the lobby is actually on the second floor and this porch/balcony overlooks a beautifully manicured lawn below.

BoardWalk Balcony

BoardWalk Balcony

BoardWalk Balcony

I especially like the “kissing bench.” This chair design makes face-to-face conversation easy and facilitates a quick smooch every now and then.

Kissing Bench

Adjacent to the lobby is Dundy’s Sundries. This shop sells BoardWalk logo merchandise, souvenirs, sundries, books, and other gift-type items. For those staying in a DVC room and looking for food items, check out Screen Door General Store located on the BoardWalk Promenade. Dundy’s Sundries is open daily from 7am to 11pm.

By the way, if you want to know who Dundy is, you’ll have to read Part Three of this article. Trust me. It’s an interesting story.

Dundy's Sundries

Dundy's Sundries

Leaving the lobby and walking toward the “Inn” section of the resort, we come to a long narrow hallway with windows on both sides. Located in this hallway is a Clamshell Mutascope. This early motion picture device was patented by Herman Casler on November 21, 1894 and soon became a staple in penny arcades around the country. The machine contained a wheel of still photographs that the patron would rotate with a hand crank, giving the illusion of movement.

Mutoscope

At one time, there were several mutascopes lining this hallway, but alas, there is now just one.

Mutoscopes

Further on we find another machine of this bygone era. Here, patrons could benefit from the “healthy” effects of electricity. By grasping the handles and twisting them inward, a person would receive a charge. The further the handles were rotated, the more electricity was transferred to the body. The claim was that this would give a person a “nerve and muscle” massage.

Machines like these and many others used to be located at the now long-gone Penny Arcade on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom. This once novel facility is missed by many old-timers of Disney World.

Electric Wonder

Across from the Clamshell Mutascope are two striking paintings and credenzas. If you study the credenzas carefully, you will notice additional paintings depicting early amusement park rides.

Credenza and Amusement Park Rides

Credenza and Amusement Park Rides

Credenza and Amusement Park Rides

Credenza and Amusement Park Rides

Credenza and Amusement Park Rides

Also in this area are a number of lithographs and illustrations. These next two pastels depict how turn-of-the-century attractions allowed a repressed society to loosen their inhibitions and enjoy a few moments of gaiety.

Lithographs

Lithographs

Another common theme seen throughout the resort is framed picture postcards from the turn of the previous century. After the American Civil War, a number of expositions were held in the U.S. to help promote commerce and trade. In 1873, the Interstate Industrial Exposition was held in Chicago. To help market the event, a “picture” postcard was created so attendees could send quick notes back home – and advertise the exposition. However, these early cards garnered very little attention. It wasn’t until an image of the Eiffel Tower was printed on a souvenir card for the Paris Exposition of 1889 that the world took notice and postcards grew to be a phenomenon.

Framed Postcards

Up until the information age, a multitude of postcards were sold at the Disney Parks. Each and every attraction had at least one of these beautifully photographed picture cards – sometimes two or three. Many guests bought them simply as collector pieces. But alas, the ability to send email, instant messages, and electronic photographs greatly cut into the sales of these picturesque pieces of cardboard and demand for them dropped dramatically. Today, only a handful of postcards are sold in the parks and most of these feature Disney characters rather than a specific location.

That’s it for Part One of the BoardWalk Inn & Villas. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.

33 Replies to “BoardWalk Inn & Villas – Part 1 of 3”

  1. Thank you Jack. This could not have come at a better time. I am in the middle of planning next years trip in Sept and was looking for somewhere outside of BLT to stay and Boardwark was the place we have chosen. Unfortunately we know very little about it other than we love the property and location so I am really looking forward to each part in this series. Thank you again.

  2. Jack,

    Thank you for posting this. I stayed at Boardwalk this past November, and had an absolutely wonderful time there. The rooms are absolutely beautiful and I enjoyed my stay there.

    I will say that Lucy the Elephant is definately south of Atlantic City in Margate, New Jersey and it is located on the Boardwalk there.

    I would recommend highly to stay at Boardwalk Inn/Villas!!! My favorite hotel!!!

  3. My family stayed at the Board Walk last year (DVC). Everything was wonderful as expected. The walk to the parking lot isn’t all that bad, but it is uphill going in.

    My wife and I had only one small complaint…….the rocking chairs don’t move very smoothly over the slate deck! Not at all what you want in a rocker. Rather bumpy and jarring. The seating is comfortable, but not the rocking.

  4. Jack, it’s seven long weeks until my very first stay at Board Walk. Your blog makes me so excited to enjoy F&W and a very nice resort at the same time.

    On to parts II and III!

    Dan

  5. Jack, thanks for another great series about a Disney resort. Just a few other interesting notes. The barrel ceiling on the lobby was built to resemble the convention center in Atlantic City, the original home of the Miss America pageant. A recurring theme at the hotel.

    Additionally in the main elevator lobby at the Inn there are some interesting photos of old Ice Capade type shows. I believe that they were promoted by Feld Entertainment which still has a partnership with Disney. The interesting part is that the photo shows Disney characters with their heads off. Hard to believe that Disney would show that in such a public area but they were still here when I checked last year.

  6. Every time I walk through that lobby the first thing I think is “I wonder if they’ve gotten rid of those creepy chairs.” And alas, those scary buggers are STILL there!!! I totally agree, they give me the creeps! Otherwise, I love the resort! Just as at the Beach Club, I like how close it is to walk in the back of EPCOT. I’ve always wondered this: Why DOES Disney capitalize the W in BoardWalk and either make it one or two words? Living in New England in a “seaside town” it seems strange that they would separate the word. Is the “Boardwalk” version trademarked by Atlantic City? Thoughts?

    Jack’s Answer:

    I don’t know why Disney capitalized the “W.” My guess is to make their boardwalk distinct from everyone else’s. But this is just a guess.

  7. Hi Jack,
    Thanks for another great blog! I love reading them! We have stayed at the Boardwalk before, and are returning this December. Can’t wait to look for all the details you covered. I knew the Boardwalk was a beautiful resort, but it makes it so much more interesting to know the origins of the theming elements. Can’t wait to read part two!
    Amy

  8. Jack,

    As usual another great blog on your part. Always love reading them. Cannot wait for parts 2 and 3. Had the pleasure of staying at the Boardwalk and really enjoyed the hotel.

    Cathy

  9. I’ve been waiting along time for the Boardwalk to get the “Spence” treatment! You couldn’t have timed it better as our family trip to BW starts 9/16. I have wanted to stay here for many years & now I know exactly what to expect. Beautiful pics too!

  10. Jack,

    I loved your article on the BoardWalk! My husband and I have stayed there multiple times and I never noticed all the beautiful details you pointed out in the lobby. Your blogs are simply the best! BoardWalk is our favorite resort because it’s so beautiful, cozy by Disney standards, and walking distance to Epcot which is our favorite park. I can’t wait for part 2!

  11. Very interesting information Jack! I stayed at the boardwalk back in 06 as we couldn’t get into beach club which is our home resort. We enjoyed it a lot and love being in that resort area. I grew up in NJ and going to the shore every summer and have visited Lucy too. It is a great theme and resort and you can’t beat the location!

  12. Wow. Your mention of the penny arcade really takes me back. My first visit was in ’74 and I still remember trying to hold an electrified handle while a guy with a spear slayed a dragon. My dad could do the one where pushed two handles together to light a lightbulb, but I couldn’t do it. Thanks for the cool reminder.

  13. Jack,
    Another great article. Im from Philadelphia and go to the shore “beach” every summer. My last trip to WDW we stayed at the Boardwalk and I didnt even notice Lucy. My kids would have gone bonkers as we visit her every year. As a previous post, I have to agree that the first vintage picture you have is not Atlantic City but Ocean City, NJ. That is Flanders Hotel in the background and Moorlyn Theatre is located on 10th Street.

  14. Jack,
    When we were in the Magic Kingdom Main Street railway station in May, we saw several mutascopes there (though at the time I didn’t know what they were called). I think there were about four there then. They entertained my children (and me) while we waited there.

  15. We had the pleasure of staying at the Boardwalk on our last trip and since we usually love to stay at the Beach Club we wanted to try a different resort that is still in our favorite area.

    It was great. Love the boardwalk feel and we all enjoyed the nightly street performers on the boardwalk. It felt like I was down the Jersey shore but it was much, much better of course because it was magical the only way Disney can make it.

    Beach Club is still our favorite, but this is now #2.

    Thanks so much for the write up and pictures. Brought back awesome memories.

    Love your blog. Have a magical day!

    Jay

  16. Oh, PERFECT TIMING! We’re checking into the BoardWalk at the end of this month…first time staying there! I really appreciate your in-depth reviews and all of the history involved!

  17. Great article so far Jack – the Boardwalk is our DVC home and we’ll be staying there next month 🙂 I will definitely look out for these details in the lobby.

  18. As always, wonderful article! I can’t wait for tomorrow.

    And you are getting me excited for my upcoming vacation to the BoardWalk Villas! A little more than two months away!

    Thanks,
    Sarah

  19. I was so excited to open up Allears today and see your blog had started on Boardwalk Inn. Ever since I read earlier that you would be doing one soon I have been waiting in anticipation. My family and I will be staying at BW in October and this will be the first time we have ever stayed here. We have stayed twice before at Wilderness Lodge. I am super excited about staying at BW. The pictures that I have looked at, videos I have watched and reviews I have read all make it appear well worth the money. Part 1 of your blog has just made the anticipation for our trip even more heightened. Can not wait for part 2 tomorrow. 55 days and counting!!!

  20. Hi Jack,

    Can’t wait for parts 2 and 3. We’ve never stayed here but make a point of wandering the complete boardwalk including hotel lobbies on every visit. As another ready said the lobby is particularly beautiful in December.

    Wendy

  21. Jack:

    The second boardwalk historical illustration is the boardwalk at Ocean City, New Jersey. It’s the one place I’ve been to more than WDW. The tall building at the left is The Flanders Motel, which still stands there to this day. (http://www.theflandershotel.com/about.asp)

    The Moorlyn Theatre survived until the late 1980’s or so. It has been replaced by a new theater, but that area of the boardwalk is still called Moorlyn Terrace. The white building bordered by the two Moorlyn signs appears to be Moore’s Bowling Casino. (http://www.moorlyn.com/BowlingCasino.htm)

    The elephant is Lucy, not Colossus. Lucy was built just south of Atlantic City in a town now called Margate. She was built before Elephantine Colossus by the same architect. Colossus was much bigger. Lucy still stands in Margate today. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_the_Elephant) You can see the differences by comparing Lucy photos to Colossus photos. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephantine_Colossus) Colossus was much bigger, with far more windows.

    I’m heading to Ocean City in two weeks for a quick getaway. I’ll try to snap a shot from a similar angle as the second image.

    Jack’s Comment:

    You are correct. After doing some investigation, I have determined that this elephant is indeed Lucy and I have corrected my blog. However, it’s not really my fault that I called this the Colossal Elephant. Disney has posted a plaque nearby stating this it’s the Colossal Elephant. But when you examine pictures of both, there is now doubt, this is Lucy.

  22. Thanks Jack for the great post on the BoardWalk Inn and Villas. It was very educational. Hope we can stay there some time in the future.

  23. nice post looking forward the other 2, in 2004 my wife and myself took a weekend at the BW 1 time, it was great it was only the second time we stay at a deluxe and it was worth every penny, we look around the lobby and the grounds & pool area, was great

  24. Jack, I always thought the elephant was a replica of Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ (near Atlantic City). It is very similar. Check out http://www.lucytheelephant.org

    Jack’s Comment:

    You are correct. After doing some investigation, I have determined that this elephant is indeed Lucy and I have corrected my blog. However, it’s not really my fault that I called this the Colossal Elephant. Disney has posted a plaque nearby stating this it’s the Colossal Elephant. But when you examine pictures of both, there is now doubt, this is Lucy.

  25. Great post Jack! I love this resort, just wish it was my home resort! We love to stay here for so many reasons. One is definitely the ambiance. We love just taking a moment to relax on the big wicker chairs and just enjoy the view. Also, thanks for the information regarding all of the pieces in the lobby. I have never noticed the “scary” chairs! I have noticed the three paintings above the check in desks but never payed attention to what they were. I will now. Thanks!

  26. Love the article, but you are mistaken about the elephant. The statue is a reproduction of Lucy, who was built in 1881 and is still “alive” and well in Margate, NJ – just south of Atlantic City. The Colossal Elephant was in Coney Island, which has nothing to do with the BoardWalk’s theme of Atlantic City history. Here is a link to “her” website: http://www.lucytheelephant.org/?presets=preset5

    Jack’s Comment:

    You are correct. After doing some investigation, I have determined that this elephant is indeed Lucy and I have corrected my blog. However, it’s not really my fault that I called this the Colossal Elephant. Disney has posted a plaque nearby stating this it’s the Colossal Elephant. But when you examine pictures of both, there is now doubt, this is Lucy.

  27. hey Jack
    Loved part 1 on the BoardWalk Inn. I am always interested in learning about the history behind all of the resorts and theme parks that Disney has to offer. can’t wait for part 2 and as always keep up the great work.

  28. Great post, Jack. The Boardwalk Inn & Villas is definitely on my list of resorts I’d love to stay at in the future. The location is great, and it has an interesting look. The big challenge is figuring out how to afford it! Your photos just made me want to stay there even more.

  29. Great Blog Jack. I love the BoardWalk and enjoyed staying there while I was A DVC member. Even on vacations were i am staying else where I always make a point of visiting. It’s my favorite place to relax and watch the world go by after a hectic day at the parks.

    I look forward to seeing parts 2 & 3

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