Near Miss: Walt Disney World Homes At The Lake Buena Vista Resort

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney History, Features, Imaginerding, Walt Disney World

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Published on August 19, 2012 at 10:52 pm with 22 Comments

Lake Buena Vista is more than just the host community for Walt Disney World, it was also going to be central to the ultimate vision that Walt Disney had for the planned community of EPCOT. Well, not really Walt’s vision, but easiest way the Company leaders could figure it out, post-Walt. As we jump back in time, imagine the entire area we’re looking at is the area consumed by Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, today.

Lake Buena Vista scan provided by the unparalleled Foxxfur from Passport 2 Dreams

Known by many names over the ensuing years, the Lake Buena Vista Resort started out with an entirely different focus–even after construction began.

Originally, the 1973 plans called for a residential development with four different community themes based on golf, tennis, boating and western. A lot of construction took place in 1974: 133 townhomes and 4 model homes. The following year, Disney announced a retirement community, additional townhomes and residential apartments for Lake Buena Vista. The 60 Treehouse homes were finished by 1975. Then Disney changed plans.

See, if they allowed people to take up residence in Lake Buena Vista, they would become citizens. Citizens with voting rights. Voting rights that could block possible expansion of the Magic Kingdom and the Walt Disney World property. So, Disney changed the focus of the community to vacation villas, treehouse villas, club lake villas and fairway villas–basically, an alternative to the typical resort hotels. It wasn’t until later that the decision would have been forced to rotate the people living in the community every three months or so. This would have stopped anyone outside of the Company leaders living on property from becoming voting citizens.

Let’s take a look at the accommodations that were available until the late 1990s and early 2000s. Many of the villas were slowly taken over by the Disney Institute before Saratoga Springs redeveloped the area for Disney Vacation Club.

(The following descriptions are from a 1978 Walt Disney World publication.)

Treehouse Villas and Vacation Villas

Winding pathways connect the Village and Club to the Treehouse Villas and Vacation Villas. Both types of accommodations are available for overnight rentals, complete vacation packages, and corporate incentive vacation and leasing plans.

Hidden in the woods bordering the Lake Buena Vista golf course, the two-bedroom Treehouses are unusual treetop retreats. Each comes with modern appliances, peaceful solitude, and a spectacular view. In fact, a few regal peacocks are likely to be your only close neighbors.

For larger families and groups. the spacious one- and two-bedroom Vacation Villas provide plenty of room.

Elegantly furnished, both types of Villas have kitchenware, a color television, linens and daily housekeeping service. Plus, guests receive complimentary motor coach transportation to the Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World resorts.

It was obvious that Disney was pretty serious about selling and promoting these accommodations to businesses that might be interested in a Walt Disney World retreat. In the following clipping from the August, 1972 Eyes and Ears, we see a smiling Emile Kuri inside one of the villas. As you will note, he designed the interiors.

Right at home in one of our City of Lake Buena Vista Townhouse is Emile Kuri, who designed the interiors of the executive retreats. Emile designed movie sets for “20, 000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “Mary Poppins “and others. New Townhouses are being built and are available on a lease basis to major U.S. corporations who use the facilities for entertainment of clients and employees. August, 1972 Eyes and Ears

A friend of mine stayed in one of the vacation villas in 1986 and shared his photos with me. Obviously, they were celebrating a birthday! These photos are great since they show a lot of the interiors.

Yep, that's my friend driving the boat with his sister and dad looking on. Great views of the exterior of the Villas in the background.

A shot of my friend's sister standing in the middle of the resort. Can you say Cabbage Patch Doll?

The little guy was a sleep, but you can see the staircase and the artwork. Check out the photo of Emile to see him standing on the stairwell. There were some cosmetic changes that had been made since the Villas opened.

A shot of the family room and a shelf! Check out the mirrored wall. Groovy.

Dig that wallpaper...and furnishings.

So many great details: the furniture, kitchen cabinets, high chair, table and artwork.

Fairway Villas

Energy-saving Fairway Villas, under construction along the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, will be the newest addition to the resort communily when they begin welcoming guests this summer.

The Villas, expected to yield energy savings of 50 percent with their unique design, Each have a 720-square-fool living, dining and kitchen area and two bedrooms, one of which can be combined with the adjoining Villa. Designed for family vacations. meetings, seminars and executive conferences, the Villa units will be arranged so that as many as four bedrooms can be rented by one tenant.

There were also four Grand Vista Suites and Club Suites, but there isn’t a lot of published information about them.

Did you ever get the chance to stay at one of these villas? Do you have any memories or photos?

Check out these great resources:


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About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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Comments for Near Miss: Walt Disney World Homes At The Lake Buena Vista Resort are now closed.

  1. Hold on
    Isnt Disney putting house up in an old golf course

    • You are correct. I’m very curious how they are going to get around the whole civic governance issue.

      • I thought that they were deaccessioning most of that property from the Reedy Creek Improvement District like they did with Celebrations.

        I just scoured the site and there is nothing there. I haven’t heard of anything concrete about it.

      • They did in fact sell off and decommission Golden Oak. Voting rights shouldn’t be an issue.

  2. My family stayed in the Vacation Villas, also in ’86. The pictures of the interior bring back a lot of memories. My family had recently bought a video camera and I know there’s footage of the villa’s interior. Thanks George!

    • Thanks for the comments!

      I would love to hear more about your stay. If you ever get your hands on the video, let me know.

  3. My family stayed in one of the Treehouse villas sometime overnight. I remember there were bugs all over the place that came out at night from behind the bed and other places, probably a factor of location, age, and wood furnishings? So after that night we switched to one of the Vacation Villas. That was a MUCH better time.

    • In the 2000s, the Treehouses were converted to International Castmember housing.

      Do you remember much about your stay?

  4. ^ We stayed there in the late 1990s I believe.

  5. Holy retro looking furnishings, Batman!

    • Still, wouldn’t that be an awesome place to have a birthday party?

  6. They looked like really boring tract homes!

    • But they had to look amazing in the 1970s, right?

      Doesn’t it say something that they are still selling units at Saratoga Springs?

      • Yes, the treehouses were renovated top-to-bottom and are now being sold as part of Saratoga Springs. They are absolutely BEAUTIFUL; try and get a tour if you can. They’re like a very upscale take on the wilderness motif, not unlike Wilderness Lodge.

  7. I love vintage, but even I find a lot of that decor appalling. Metallic wallpapers WERE awesome, though. Too bad none of these buildings were preserved, but at least we got new treehouses.

    • I agree! I was thrilled when my friends showed me these photos AND let me scan them. ;)

  8. I actually got to stay there, in this very section in the picture… great memories…

    Thinking back on this, we stayed in this section in 1972 and I was impressed that there was a Guard House at the entrance to the circular road that was on the other side of these buildings… felt exclusive/special.

    When we went to the Magic Kingdom (which was ALL there was then) we’d make a left turn and head through the Disney property where all the construction/storage of Disney World had just taken place… it was interesting to see the “back area”…

    I remember they were still building the hotels and there was NO Disney Village at this point.

    When you went down the road where the hotels were being built and left the Disney property, the roads turned to _dirt_.

    It was a BIG DEAL to have gone to Disney World in the early ’70′s…

    We went home back to Long Island with Disney World sweatshirts and when I wore mine, people would stop me and ask about it… like I had just come back from the Moon… ;-)

    • What an AWESOME story!

      You stayed just as they were finishing up the first phase. At that time, they were still pushing them as executive retreats. Was it a business-related trip for your family?

      You wouldn’t happen to have any photos or memorabilia, eh?

  9. [...] MiceChat [...]

  10. Very interesting. You don’t see much about the Disney Village Resort.

    I stayed in a treehouse in 1992. I thought, however, that there were three bedrooms – not two as the old promotional material says. I seem to recall two bedrooms on the main upper floor and a third bedroom on the ground floor. (I think that the ground floor of the old tree houses were much bigger than the new ones) If i remember correctly there was a metal spiral staircase inside the treehouse that went down to the ground floor bedroom. I will have to look to see if I have any pictures. I would love to see a floor plan of the old tree houses.

    • You’re right!

      In later years, they converted the downstairs room to a small bedroom. The earliest I can find is around 1995. I will keep checking.

  11. This is a great insight to the old resort… I never knew much about it!!

    I did find a great old video that was shown on the resort TVs back in the 80s that does mention the Lake Buena Vista Resort and shows some footage. It also shows the Golf Inn before it became Shades of Green. Pretty cool!!!