“Tomorrow always holds the promise of something new and exciting, and this strangely graceful old and creative building bears out that promise.” – Monsanto Home of the Future promotional film
The first generation of attractions in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland were far from our ideas of great E-Ticket attractions we see today, and likely made Tomorrowland one of the more boring areas of Disneyland. With attractions like: The Hall of Aluminum Fame, The Bathroom of Tomorrow and the Thimble Drome Flight Circle; Tomorrowland was not the draw that it would later become in with the large 1959 expansion. Most attractions were guided by the views of their corporate sponsors and their own product development.
In the 1960’s Tomorrowland began to shift its focus to a visionary world of tomorrow that looked at what was possible beyond the scope of a single company, instead focusing on the future of mankind. One of the attractions that signified this shift was The Monsanto Chemical Company’s Home of the Future.
The first attraction sponsored by Monsanto was the opening day Hall of Chemistry which took visitors through an exhibit showing the future and potential of chemistry in our lives, including the exciting CHEMATRON (no idea what that was). The great thing about both of the Monsanto sponsored attractions is that they didn’t require a ticket.
Although The House of the Future was not a thrilling attraction on the “WOW Mom” scale, it probably landed somewhere between the campy display boards at the Tomorrowland Dairy Bar and screaming trip down the Matterhorn. The House of Future lived for nine years in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. It is a distinct icon of a bygone era, when the term “space age” meant new and innovative. It’s become a part of Disneyland lore, and not requiring a ticket kept the attraction busy.
The attraction was a combined effort by Monsanto, Disney and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They were charged with finding an interesting way to show the potential of Monsanto’s plastics division in their everyday lives.
Plastics were a growing field in the mid 1950’s. The research and development partnership between Monsanto and the United States government during World War II led to an explosion of plastics related products for American consumers. Products like vinyl flooring, latex paints, formica and adhesives were new and exciting. (Really!) Monsanto and M.I.T. decided the best way to showcase plastics and the innovations was to find some way to display these exciting products in three dimensions, or within a structure. This was the era of the baby boomer and the beginnings of the suburbs, so a home was an easy choice. The result was the Monsanto House of the Future. After two years of development, construction for the House of the Future began in January of 1957
The House of the Future was given an ideal spread. It was located at the entrance to Tomorrowland on the left, in a garden area that looked out on Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Circarama building and in the near future, The Matterhorn. After the House of the Future was removed the site became the Alpine Gardens. Today, this is where the Pixie Hollow meet and greet is located.
The attraction was an actual house. It was not a building retrofit into a house and it wasn’t a vacated attraction building or a soundstage. It was a freestanding structure that served only as this attraction. The structure was elevated. I’m not sure if this made it seem more futuristic or if it just made it easier to see from afar, but the house sat on a support in the middle. It had four wings that were cantilevered, meaning that the wings were overhangs without external supports or braces. Instead they supported their own weight. Each wing was able to support 13 tons.
Photo copyright LIFE Magazine
The Layout of the House
The center of the house had two adjacent bathrooms: the master bath & the children’s bathroom, and utility room. Disneyland guests entering the house would enter through the dining room. The dining room and kitchen shared a wing. Moving to the right, guests could look in on the children’s room, separated only by a partition (Yikes!). After moving past the central bath unit, you entered the third wing to find the master bedroom, which seems to be the most spacious of the rooms since it wasn’t divided. The fourth wing was the living room where Disneyland guests exited through a sliding door. Outside the house was a patio with a very sixties looking half-dome that offered some shade.
Features of the Home
In addition to its futuristic design and look, the House of the Future had outrageous concepts for appliances. The floor, ceiling and walls were made entirely of plastic. All of the carpets and rugs were made of manmade fabrics.
The kitchen featured a number of innovative designs and appliances like a microwave oven; thought to be the future of all cooking. Refrigerated shelves lowered from the ceiling to reveal your cold goods. No water was needed for the ultrasonic wave dishwasher to wash your plastic bowls and cups. The ceiling panels could be set to various light levels for utility or mood.
Whole-house intercoms could be used to send messages or talk to people outside. A climate control panel could not only be set to heat or cool the house, but could also be set to give off the aroma of sea salt or roses. For entertainment, the built in HiFi system livened up the living room. Vinyl flooring made for easy cleaning. A push button speaker phone allowed hands free calls
In the bathrooms, lavatories could be raised or lowered to a comfortable height. Built in electric razor and tooth brushes allowed for ease of use as well
In 1967 Monsanto discontinued its sponsorship and the House of the Future closed its sliding door for good. The new Monsanto sponsored attraction Adventure Through Inner Space was opening along with a remodeled Tomorrowland and House of the Future was not in the plans.
Disney set aside one day for demolition of the structure. A wrecking ball was brought into the park to bring the House of Future down after Disneyland closed for the evening. However, when the crane swung its wrecking ball to destroy the house, it promptly bounced off the plastic wall. Trucks, chains, torches and chainsaws were used to no avail and finally the crew was ordered to cut the house apart with hacksaws.
The concrete base was the only remnant left from the structure as it was painted green and left with the Alpine Garden that replaced the area.
When M.I.T. researchers measured the cantilevered wings before the attraction closed, they noted that it had sunk only a quarter of an inch although having over 20 million visitors throughout its almost ten year history.
What’s interesting is that the House of the Future was not a model home, meaning that neither Monsanto, M.I.T. nor Disney ever intended to sell any Homes of the Future. It was simply a showcase of innovation with the hope of inspiring visitors to think about new and better ways of living – with plastics of course.
Did you ever get to experience the House of the Future? Do you have any special memories of this long-gone attraction? Would you live in such a house if they were for sale?
The Home of the Future was the subject of the episode 126 of WEDWay Radio, we invite you to listen along.