1970s Walt Disney World Resort Treasures

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

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Published on September 23, 2013 at 1:00 am with 7 Comments

After my article last week requesting research help, I received a lot of great comments and emails offering anecdotes, images and original source material. One of my longtime readers contributed many photos from the 1970s. Before we get to the photos, let’s look at one of the comments left on the previous article about the location of the Gulf Coast Room.

The Gulf Coast Room was actually part of the Grand Republic Ballroom, made up of 3 rooms – the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coast Rooms. The Atlantic and Gulf Coast had low ceilings of about 9 feet with dark walls, the Pacific had 15 foot ceilings. The Gulf Coast Room was the closest to the 2nd Floor Lobby and had a Chrome Frame with lights over the doorways. The restaurant was made up of chairs, tables, dividers etc and all removable if a big enough convention needed the space. The restaurant used part of the convention floor kitchens which run most of the length of the Tower front.

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During the first incarnation of the area, the Grand Republic Ballroom was only three rooms. From left to right, on the map above: the Atlantic Room, the Pacific Room and the Gulf Coast Room. The Gulf Coast Room was the only one of the rooms with doors to the second floor elevator lobby, making it the better choice for an instant restaurant.

Does anyone else have insight into the layout for the Contemporary from the 1970s?

Vintage Contemporary Resort Photos

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This is a fantastic shot of the South Grand Canyon Concourse from January, 1977. Diners are enjoying their meals in the Terrace Buffeteria/Terrace Cafe.

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I’m pretty sure that’s the Outer Rim on the left side. I love this photo because you get a great shot of the trees and the layout of the floor. It also looks like people are dressed up for dinner!

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Another shot of the Terrace Cafe. The structure on the right side looks like the way the shops were covered but I’m thinking that’s actually the buffet line for the Terrace Buffeteria.

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This shot of the Top of the World bar (from January 1977) is spectacular. Check out the carpet! Check out the chairs! Check out the red ceiling! (Check out my article on the history of the Top of the World!) This had to have been an amazing place to enjoy a drink or two after a day at the Magic Kingdom.

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This is the Fiesta Fun Center from January 1976. This was located on the first floor of the Contemporary where the Wave restaurant is currently. The comment from my secret source about the photo: “The shooting gallery was to the left and the snack bar to the right. Plus, a whole lot of new-fangled air hockey tables! The whole area is surprisingly utilitarian.”

 Golf Resort!

One of my newest obsessions is the Golf Resort (check out my article on the Golf Resort). There simply aren’t a lot of photos available for this hotel so I was quite excited to get this photo of the lobby from March of 1978.

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So many wonderful things! The word above the lady at the counter says cashiers. I would love to check out  few of the thigs for sale in the gift shop! I’m assuming the shop is Golf Gifts and Sundries which sold souvenirs, books and magazines, daily newspapers, liquor, film, toiletries and a little bit of everything else.

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An exterior shot of the Golf Resort from March, 1978. The gentleman are wearing their finest golf wear. Notice the tire tracks on the grass? The guy in yellow is looking up, as well. I wonder if they hit the ball into an upper balcony? They might be heading into their room to take a nap. I’m digging the yellow patio furniture.

Or was this the long-forgotten episode of Starsky and Hutch at Walt Disney World?

The Polynesian Village Resort

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The Polynesian Resort is my favorite place to stay at Walt Disney World. This photo from June 1978 shows the lobby in its original form. Again, check out those floors! The tiled wall and benches are amazing, too. And the faux skylights!

On the left side of the photo is the News from Civilization shop. This was the standard shop at Disney for sundries like books, magazines, newspapers, films and gifts. It was noted for being the only place at Walt Disney World in which you could buy a grass skirt.

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A shot of the Polynesian pool from June 1978. This was one of the earliest themed pools at Walt Disney World. It’s a series of large boulders with a very popular slide. To get to the slide, you had to duck under a waterfall to get to the ladder. At the bottom is the pool for toddlers.

River Country Construction

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This is a shot from January 1977 and shows construction on the beach and lagoon. To the right are the body slides and tubes. Pioneer Hall would be off to the left.

Thanks to my secret source for providing these amazing photos! If you have any great photos or memories to share, feel free to email me at [email protected].

If you’re looking for a great read on the first decade of Walt Disney World, check out the fantastic book, Walt Disney World: the First Decade. It has a lot of great information and photos.


ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

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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7 Comments

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  1. I love these photos. My first trip to WDW was in 1980 and I wish I had some pictures to share from that trip. We actually have pictures from that time but all of them have either me or my family front and center since my Mom (the primary photographer) was more interested in us than the cool surroundings. Understandable but still a little disappointing that she didn’t take a few non-people shots.

  2. These pics are amazing. I love this series and how you highlight the great history of WDW.

  3. The Fiesta Fun Center was a great arcade and one of the largest that I visited as a kid. My family also had caricatures made by an artist at the Fun Center (that still hang on my parents’ wall to this day).

    We had family that lived in Orlando, so the only on-property stay was at the Polynesian for the Bicentennial in July of ’76. I was five and excited to go down the slide at the pool. Extreme disappointment set in, when I didn’t meet the age/height requirements.

  4. True Story:
    First time at WDW with my girlfriend in 1978. We stayed a few nights of the Contemporary, then a few nights at the Polynesian – both rooms overlooked Seven Seas Lagoon and were great. But one morning at the Contemporary we woke to find that some guy committed suicide by jumping off the top floor in the atrium, landing on, and then through the gift shop ceiling (which was basically just colored plastic panels). It was even in the Orlando Sentinel paper. The gift shop already had plywood panels put up on the ceiling, and of course it was closed and off limits for that day.
    Weird but true….

  5. I think the first trip my parents took me on to WDW was in 1984 or so, but I remember when I was a kid they had all kinds of books about WDW from the 1970s. I wish I still had them but my mom threw them all out years ago. The thing I can remember most about the pictures of the resorts from the 70s was that everyone looked dressed up all the time, even when they were just being casual in the park. No one looked sloppy in the pictures, not like today. Very few people wore tee shirts ever it seemed…the men would have polo shirts on. Sometimes the kids would have tank tops. But women were never in tee shirts, only blouses. The other thing I remember about those books that I thought was weird was that they really promoted horse back riding, water skiing, boating, fishing, and things like that. I remember being little and wanting to see pictures of Mickey and the rides in the park and having to page through all these pages showing water skiing and fishing and things. About half the books were about things that had nothing to do with Magic Kingdom.

  6. In 1975 when I was 15, I drove to Orlando with my 16 year old friend who had just got his license
    We stayed with his aunt and we went to Walt Disney World. We went 10 days in a row and had a great time. I still have the ticket stub for $5.25 for admission into the park with no ride tickets included.
    His aunt had a draw full of Disney tickets A-E, from guest who stayed with her and left their unused tickets behind. At that time there were starting to switch to unlimited passes. We bought them one time and were able to use them for days after. They were made of cardboard and you pinned them on your shirt. The valid date was stamped on them, but it was real small and no cast members bothered to look close enough at them to see that they had expired.
    I still have 10 rolls of 8mm film from that trip that I would love to see. I haven’t seen the film since the 80′s. No one has working 8mm projectors anymore.

  7. I was hoping you would mention the Contemporary’s Coconino Cove bar to which I’m a lifetime member with Disney Legend Harriet Burns.