In early 1971, I purchased the above booklet – a “Preview Edition” of Walt Disney World. Within its 21 pages were dozens of artist’s renderings of this fantastic resort that was under construction in Florida. I took it home and read it cover to cover, twice. The booklet briefly described each of the lands within the Magic Kingdom and the two new hotels being built. It talked about the Mickey Mouse Review and Country Bear Jamboree, both unheard of attractions at Disneyland. It described recreational activities like golf, waterskiing, and sail boating, also unheard of activities at Disneyland. The booklet closed with a discussion of Epcot, the city, not the theme park – a community that was to one day have a population of 20,000.
Another topic discussed was Disney’s Five Year Plan for the property and the three hotels that would soon follow the Polynesian and Contemporary. These were the Asian and Venetian resorts which would sit on the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Persian that would be located on Bay Lake.
For a number of years, the following picture (minus the animation) hung in every room at the Contemporary Resort. Here you can see all of the existing and planned hotels plus the Ft. Wilderness Campgound. Also notice, there is no Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or Pirates of the Caribbean in the Magic Kingdom.
Let’s start with the Asian Resort. Slated to open in 1974, this Thailand-inspired hotel was to have 600 rooms, including 50 suites that would exhibit a royal dÃ©cor. A lounge and theme restaurant would be found within the resort’s 160-foot center tower and provide dancing and stage-shows, in much the same way as the Contemporary’s “Top of the World.” This resort was also to have its own monorail station.
Here are three artist’s renderings.
The Asian Hotel was to sit where the Grand Floridian now resides. In this next picture, you can see a square plot of land jutting into the Seven Seas Lagoon. The resort was part of Walt Disney World’s master plan and was incorporated into the original design.
When construction began on the Grand Floridian, a portion of this land needed to be reconfigured to accommodate the new hotel.
The Venetian Resort was to sit in-between the Transportation & Ticket Center and the Contemporary Resort. Plans called for a “City of Canals” that would offer unique shopping opportunities as guests traveled by gondola under ornate bridges to various sections of the resort. Reminiscent of St. Mark’s Square, a 120-foot campanile would be the hotel’s icon. This resort would also have its own monorail station.
Here are two artist’s renderings of the Venetian Resort and an aerial view of its proposed location.
After the Grand Floridian’s success, Michael Eisner wanted to build an even more luxurious resort. The plans for the Venetian were given a second look and eventually discarded for a Mediterranean Resort that would be themed after a small Greek island. The land was cleared where the Venetian was to stand, but it was soon discovered that this area was unstable and would require pylons deeper than those used on Spaceship Earth to support the hotel. Because of this, cost estimates skyrocketed and plans were dropped. Eventually the land was replanted with trees and now can be seen as a lush forest as you travel past on the monorail.
The Persian Resort was to sit north of the Contemporary and to the east of the Magic Kingdom on Bay Lake. Some renderings show a spur from the monorail reaching this hotel while others display a second loop that traveled through Tomorrowland. You can see this loop on the picture below. To see the spur, look at the above Contemporary Resort “property” map.
The Persian Resort was to have a 24-foot dome atop a central building that would act as the entrance to the hotel and house a restaurant, shops, and meeting facilities. The guest rooms would radiate from this building in a circular design. Here are two artist’s renderings.
None of the resorts ever materialized for a number of reasons, but the main culprit was the 1973 oil embargo. Tourism dropped off significantly during this time and three more deluxe resorts were not needed.
The third resort to be built at Disney World ended up being the Golf Resort and opened in December 1973. It was later renamed The Disney Inn (1986) to give the resort a broader appeal. In February, 1994, this resort was leased to the U.S. Government for military personnel and the name changed to Shades of Green. The government purchased the resort outright in 1996.
25 Replies to “Hotels that Never Were at Walt Disney World”
My dad passed in jan of this year. When I was little we took alot of trips to Walt Disney world. We stayed at fort wilderness. One time. Anyway when going through his things I found alot of books on Disney World one is the Preview Edition from 1970. It is in mint condition. Can anyone tell me the approximate value of it. I need to know for estate sale. I’m trying to save his house. Please email [email protected]. I would greatly appreciate any info.
My Fiance and I are planning our honeymoon and have decided to stay at http://www.swandolphin.com This is by far the most amazing Disney World resort yet. There 17 restaurants on the resort along with access to transportation to all of the parks every 15 minutes. I think this is going to be the best place for our honeymoon because it looks so romantic and elegant.
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WOW!! Cool blog! I found that same map (minus animation) on the internet several years ago and always wondered what the extra hotels were.
Sorry for the late addition to the thread. I wanted to thank Jack again for another great Blog. I love all the historic stuff about Disney particularly the “never were” and the small elements lost to time like your blog on the Fort Wilderness RR. Id also like to note what a major loss it is the EPCOT the “City” was never realized the way Walt had originally planned it. It leaves me curious to wonder that it Walt’s vision for the modern city with all its efficient energy saving marvels had been realized then would we currently be in the energy crisis we are today. Perhaps to solve some of our energy problems we need to look back on what Walt had planned and take so direction from that. If memory serves Walt did win some sort of award for municipal development all the way back with Disneyland. That should carry some weight. Thanks!
Jack – you have outdone yourself!
This was without a doubt one of the most fascinating reads about WDW!!! While I had heard most of these stories before, I have never seen some of these images, which added so much to the story.
Thank you for taking what can only have been a significant amount of energy to write this blog, and please don’t let this be the last! I would love to read more blog entries like this from you.
Thank you so much again!
Greetings from Argentina!! This is an awesome blog, and Thank you for sharing. We are very far away but we are looking forward for all the great information you give to us! Thank you again!
Another great blog!
Just in case you haven’t seen it here’s a link to the first half of the Project Florida film that was shown at the Preview Center (and toured the South East I think) that shows all these hotels as part of the model in the preview center.
Another great job! Very nicely done! Love reading your column(blog) every day!
As usual your blogs are facinating, I always look forward to them. I appreciate that while you obviously have a deep love for all things Disney, you are also objective in your reviews and descriptions. I was wondering if you would be comfortable sometime blogging about the “State of the Parks.” Your opinions about their current state, what direction you would like to see them go, what you like and don’t like, and why. Your objectivity to me is more interesting than all the “fanboy” message (rumor) boards out there. Something to think about.
Thanks for all you do,
I’ll have to think about this one.
These historical Blogs are tremendous. I first visited the world around 1974 or 1975 when I was 11 or 12 I especially remember Monorail, the WEDWAY, and the Ticketbooks. We must have gone on the Carousel of Progress and Eastern Airlines “If you had wings” 20 times (they didn’t require a ticket). I recently went back to the world in 2007 and was amazed at how much I had rememebered.
It wonderful to see how things have changed and the visionary practices and ideas at the beginning.
Thanks so much, Jack. These things are priceless.
Wonderful stuff! Thanks as always for sharing.
Jack, this blog was pure awesomeness. Very interesting to see this information but this sort of blog has to be very difficult to pull together and make it seemless. Not many people could pull this off but I’m very impressed.
I have been thoroughly enjoying the trips through WDW history. Being a relative youngster (born in ’82) I did not get to experience WDW first-hand until the late 80s/early 90s, so it’s great to hear from someone who was actually there at the beginning.
Thanks for all the great information and photographs. I look forward to your updates!
Did you just call me “old?”
I’m very grateful I was around at the beginning of Disney World and Disneyland. I visited the California park for the first time in ’57, I was five. It’s been wonderful to watch the parks as they have grown and changed over the years. I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’m glad my blogs are bringing you some enjoyment.
Have you heard if there are any plans in the works for a resort where the Persian was going to be? Seems like there is plenty of room there to develop another fine resort! Also, a great location!
I know of no plans for the land north of the Contemporary to be developed. This area is considered “backstage” and contains heating and cooling plants and work areas. Also, at the moment, Disney has more hotel rooms than needed. That’s why the Pop Century is only half complete. Who knows what the future holds, but I doubt that we’ll ever see this area of the property developed. There are too many other options available.
Another awesome fact-filled information fest from you! Thanks again for all the great stories!
Wow…I love the background and stories you share about Disney World. My family is heading to the world in one week and I cannot wait to share with them the information about the hotels that never came to be as we travel along the monorail. Thanks again!
You did it again – awesome report!
Now in that 2nd pic of yours you show an artists rendering of the planned Epcot city.
Is that the same city I see a model of when I’m on the TTA and it zips through Space Mountain?
When Walt moved the Carousel of Progress from the NY World’s Fair to Disneyland, the show was housed in a two-story building. At the completion of the show, instead of exiting out the doors, there was an escalator positioned where the stage was in the other theaters. Everyone exited by going to the second level of the building. Here we saw “Progress City.” But in fact, it was a model of Walt’s future city, Epcot. This model had moving cars, people movers, and trains. An airplane taking off was even projected on the sky.
When COP was moved to Disney World, so was the model. However, the Imagineers really didn’t have a place for it. Eventually, it was decided to make it part of the PeopleMover, but it was much too large. The model was reduced drastically in size. And in case you haven’t notice, the model trains sit stationary on the tracks — they haven’t moved in years. For those of us who remember the full sized working model, it’s sad to see it as it is today.
And by the way, you don’t see this model in Space Mountain. It’s located somewhat over the Stitch Encounter attraction.
While I truly enjoy all of your columns, Jack, I was especially interested in this one. I have always been fascinated to learn more about the early days of WDW, but there isn’t a lot of information out there, especially about the proposed MK resort hotels. One can only imagine, given the quality (and popularity) of the Polynesian, how awesome the Asian or Persian or Mediterranean would have been.
I’m a big fan (I check daily for new entries to your blog). Thanks for your efforts and keep up the great work!
There are a number of good “history” books about Disneyland’s beginnings, but not so many about Disney World. However, one exception is “Realityland True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World” by David Koenig. This book presents a comprehensive history of the Florida project, including the hotels. I haven’t read it in a couple of years, but I remember it being chock full of interesting details. I checked, and it’s available on Amazon.
Thank you so much all of the historical blogs you have been doing. I have enjoyed reading all of them. I hope that you don’t run out of material any time soon!
Great blog about the history of WDW that never materialized. I have this same booklet along with a postcard that shows the same view of the cover and another showing the block of filled land where the Asian resort was supposed to be, MK without Space Mt., along with the Contemporary, T & T and the Poly. Both cards were sent from Orlando in January of 1971. I purchased all in a box lot at an auction several years ago. I’m an avid WDW history collector, and your blog brought back memories that most WDW guests don’t know about. It’s very interesting to see how different things are today……..VIC
I apologize to write again, I went onto eBay and found what I beleive is the same / similar booklet. But the cover looks different and the person selling says there is 24 pages.
The cover is a teal color and shows your 13th picture, the one where you explain the rendering of where the Persian was to be.
Could this be an earlier version??
I’m not sure what you saw, but when I went on eBay, I found an exact match to my booklet. It said 22 pages, but it’s obviously the same booklet.
I didn’t see what you saw. However, I’m sure Disney put out a number of pre-opening brochures, pamphlets, and booklets.
This is amazing, I love your articles when you go back in time to Disney histyory….My first trip to Disney wasn’t until 1985 so all of this is new to me!!
Is there any way to get a hold of that original “Preview Edition” booklet?? I am sure it would cost a pretty penny!!
Obviously, this booklet hasn’t been sold in many years. However, I just checked on eBay and one is for sale. I won’t quote the amount, but when I saw it, it was reasonably priced. Maybe you should go for it.
Excellent, interesting post
I hate blogs!!! …but as always, Jack, there is something extra special about yours! This one is just another example of the depth of your knowledge and your willingness to share that knowledge with others in a totally appealing and interesting way. Thank you for sharing all your great information and pictures!