Remembering Disneyland’s House Of The Future

Written by Nathan Parrish. Posted in Disney History, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Features, WEDway

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Published on October 15, 2012 at 5:02 am with 28 Comments

“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

Photo Copyright Walt Disney Co.

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

Photo Souvenir Guide

The Location
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 Structure
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.

Photo Souvenir Guide

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

Demolition
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.

The Legacy
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.  

About Nathan Parrish

Nate Parrish researches Disney history for his podcasts: WEDWay Radio, a show about Disney history, experiencing the Disney Parks and the Walt Disney Company, and WEDWay NOW! the companion news show and window to the Disney community, both co-hosted by with his brother Matt. Nate helped create and produce Betamouse, the first Disney podcast about the convergence of Disney and technology. One of the areas that has made WEDWay Radio a success is that it not only explores the details of the Disney Parks, but also examines the cultural relevance. By day, Nate is a high school history teacher in suburban Kansas City MO.

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28 Comments

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  1. Great job Nate
    I love the podcast

  2. I actually DID get to go into the House of the Future once or twice. Unfortunately that was almost 50 years ago so my memories are few. Besides, I was a young boy so I wasn’t as interested in a “stupid house of the future” as I was going on the attractions. (NO, I don’t think of it as “stupid” now!). I do remember thinking how neat it would be if everyone lived in a house like that (my house on the beach was small and this house would have really looked cool near the beach!)

    • I can imagine being a young kid and seeing the Matterhorn, but having to go through the House of the Future first would be very disappointing. Ha Ha Ha!

  3. Great column, Nate!

    Looking forward to reading more!

    I think the House of the Future would have been an amazing walk-through exhibit.

  4. [...] Remembering the Disneyland House of the Future. Share this:PinterestFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Filed under Uncategorized and tagged Disneyland, history, House of the Future | Leave a comment [...]

  5. I also was able to tour this house. I was a preteen when it opened and it was there through my teen years. But like Mainstreetmagic I was also more interested in rides than walking through a house. I do remember being impressed and in awe of certain things that seemed so futuristic to me. For some reason the electric toothbrush really impressed me! I wish we had taken photos or a home movie, but sadly my Dad who took the pictures never did.

  6. Great first article and welcome Nate!

    I hope everyone listens to the podcast, it’s fantastic!

  7. Great debut column, sir! Welcome to the MiceChat family!

  8. You make this house sound boring and I loved it. We stopped there every visit. What I remember most is it had what was later called a Princess styled phone. I believe every girl want one and now of course it would be old fasion

    • Sorry if you think I make it sound boring. I was really trying to show our view of the future in 1957.

  9. Ned great delivery and loved your recapturing story on a part of Disneyland my family always looked forward to seeing on our visits. Being from a family of developers, builders, engineers and home construction, my parents and especially my mother would give it the WOW scale factor however, when looking at all the kitchen products of her future. A lot of the inovations did turn up in our own home because of it, as well as tree houses and forts in our backyard.

    • PS In listening to the podcast, I wonder why they never made car bodies out of this same material the House of the Future was made of that could not be destroyed by wrecking ball impact or other means? I would buy one. It also reminds me about Carousel of Progress, and I wonder why haven’t they brought it back home to Disneyland where they could upgrade the final futuristic kitchen scene. I’m sure it would be a great draw at the gates.

  10. Thanks for the write-up. This is one of those attractions that would have been memorable to have seen. It’s too bad they couldn’t keep it in some form and continue to update it, or move it to another corner of Tomorrowland. The House of the Future remained a working attraction even after the big TL ’67 redo and was around for only a little while concurrently with Adventure Thru Inner Space. It was certainly futuristic for its time, and I daresay it still looks futuristic… at least from the outside.

  11. The people who once toured that house never dreamed that the future would be more like Soylent Green than 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    • :) )

      Timekeeper

    • There’s a great commentary that goes well with this in the DVD “The 1964 World’s Fair” narrated by Judd Hirsch. It basically says that the fair was obsolete even before it opened–it was essentially a ’50s mentality. The idea that technology could solve everything was more corporate PR than reality. So if the ’64 fair was behind the times, then the New Tomorrowland in ’67 was even more so (much as I still love it to this day). The design of 2001 was really an upscale version of this. Ten years later, Star Wars was heralded as presenting a “lived-in” version of space (though not technically in the future).

      As a boy I LOVED the House of the Future. I wanted to live in it when I grew up and was outraged that they took it out. I thought it would look perfect next to the entrance of the New Tomorrowland (which I followed avidly). I was a lot like Red in That ’70s Show: “I was promised a hovercar and I WANT MY HOVERCAR!”. LOL

      • I have that DVD as well. I’m a little obsessed with the 64/65 Fair. I think it may have been dated in that the technology that they presented wasn’t new, but seeing so much new technology applied at the same time was probably something that people hadn’t seen before. The idea of a Fair itself is kind of an old fashioned, especially nowadays with a wealth of information at your fingertips, but the presentation of all the attractions was probably something to behold.

  12. I kind of remember seeing this attraction from the outside, although don’t recall ever going through it. This is one of the attractions of the “old” Tomorrowland that embodied the promise of a brighter and more amazing future. It inspired imagination and the hope of making everyone’s life easier, not just those who could afford high-end technology. And many of the promises were actually delivered (albiet in not so futuristic of a package).

    The problem I see in the recent versions of Tomorrowland is that it doesn’t really spark the hope and dreams for technology that may be afforded to the masses in the foreseeable future. Instead we get attractions like Innoventions which really just showcases current technology for those who can afford it. The only hope that future inspires is one to be in a financial capacity to afford the cool toys.

    • You are so right. Tomorrowland held the promise of a bright future. That was its big draw. It was actually a place of awe and hope. That has absolutely been lost in all of Disney’s Tomorrowlands across the globe. The future is much darker these days with Stitch, Zurg, Darth Vader and even a foreboding trip through the stars. “Tomorrowland” is much more oriented toward Space Travel than it is about the future these days. But you can see why that has happened. Staying up to date is a very hard thing to do. As modern as this house of the future must have been when it opened, it was absurdly out of date by the time it closed.

      • Too true. And I really hate to take the stand of “What Would Walt Do?” but I’m sure he realized that Tomorrowland would always need to be revamped to keep it fresh. Tomorrowland was always a bit of a Worlds Fair type showcase with Disney magic and immersion applied. Nostaglia was satisfied with Main Street and Frontierland. Fantasyland and Adventureland supplied just that, fantasy and adventure. Tomorrowland provided another layer of entertainment the other lands couldn’t. It’s just kind of sad they have abandoned that layer texture to the tune of it’s too expensive and troublesome to endure. I don’t think Walt would have given up so easily.

  13. Nice first article and also welcome to Miceage/Micechat.

    Timekeeper

  14. Great article Nate! Looking forward to more! Thanks for the great photos too!

  15. Monsanto is evil, and I’m happy that their name is no longer associated with Disney.