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ImagiNERDing

Theme Parkeology: Center Street in the Magic Kingdom

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by , 05-20-2012 at 08:39 PM




Walt Disney World is 40 years old. A lot has changed over the years and not just increased admission prices; we have lost attractions, lands, restaurants and philosophies.

Part of what I love doing is scouring old Walt Disney World publications and photographs to decipher changes and record what history I can. Something that most Disney enthusiasts recognize is the lack of historical record for Walt Disney World. Disneyland is one of the most well-documented places in history by the Disney Company and by us regular people.

A good friend shared his early Walt Disney World photos and it included a few from his parents' first trips in 1972 and 1973. The one that caught my eye was the one of his mom standing on Main St. while surrounded by flowers.



I knew this image featured a section of the Magic Kingdom that had been lost for a few years. As you head down Main Street USA, you come to a side street on the right hand side that is known as East Center Street. As you glance to the left, you notice an entrance to the Emporium. Weird, right?

Well, in 2001, an addition to the Emporium was created that took over the entirety of West Center Street and forced the shopkeepers to close down or relocate (like the Harmony Barber Shop). Let's do some theme parkeology and look at what we are missing.


Image courtesy of Photos From the Parks.

In the Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom, Alex Wright discusses the story behind the Emporium. The shopkeeper has found success on Main St. and was able to expand his business.

The original Victorian space has always shown signs of opulence in the finishes and the fixturing, such as the combination gas and electric chandeliers-the electric lamps point down, the gas lamps point up-a tremendous extravagance during this era. The expansion revealed the ways the proprietor has been spending his money. The architecture is intended to reflect influence brought back a few years later, circa 1903, from Europe, revealed in Edwardian style. This shows itself through the lighter woods and pastel color scheme, contrasting with the heavier woods and reddish tones of the pre-existing space.
The next image is from a 1974 GAF Guide to the Magic Kingdom and gives us a breakdown of the shops on Main St. It is also fascinating to study the guide because you can see the (not-to-scale) dimensions of the shops.


I pulled out a detail of the map and listed the shop that were on West Center Street:
  • 23 - Greenhouse Flower Shop
  • 24 - New England Clock Shop
  • 29 - Card Shop
  • 41 - Harmony Barber Shop


There were also facades for a Chinese Hand Laundry, the Livery and Champion Cyclery. We actually lost the Greenhouse in 1984 during the Emporium's first expansion even though the store front remained.

The following images are the few that I could find in my 600 book library. There are also very few images available online from family vacations. Maybe more will start appearing over the next few years.


A fantastic image from April 1975 courtesy of DaveLand.



An image from the October 15, 1972 Institutions Magazine


This shot was used in several pictorial souvenir guides.



From the 1987 Walt Disney World and EPCOT Center book.



From the 1994 Souvenir Guidebook. It is one of the largest photos of West Center Street I have ever seen.



From the 1993 paperback pictorial souvenir guide.

Sources:


Do you have any memories or photos of West Center Street? What do you think about the expansion of the Emporium which took over the entire West side of Center Street, destroying the smaller themed shops?




ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at [email protected]

Be sure to visit Imaginerding.com for Disney book reviews and more! (I just celebrated five years!)

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I also write at Everything Walt Disney World.

I am one half of the incredibly talented, handsome, charming, sanguine, lucent, refulgent, beguiling, hilarious, perturbable and intelligent duo behind Communicore Weekly. You can find them on the Mice Chat Youtube Channel.




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Updated 05-21-2012 at 04:34 AM by Dustysage

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Comments

  1. Dustysage's Avatar
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    George, you have Put your finger on exactly what is wrong with WDW these days. They have systematically removed the little details like this to focus instead on mass retail and efficiency.

    I can understand why they did it . . . Profits. I just don't think they should have done it . . . Loss of magic.

    The erosion of magic details has made the Kingdom less fun and more like an elaborate shake down for your wallet. I'm not sure who is most responsible for the dismantling of the the magic details, but the company really needs to put someone in charge of Disney World who understands that the details and little nooks to explore and discover are just as important to creating the magic as the rides and attractions. They help make the parks real.

    In many ways, Universal is now the company creating magic environments in Florida, while Disney has been busy dismantling them. It's no wonder that WDW is struggling and Universal is rolling in the dough. WDW is so far off the right path, that I truly don't think they know where it is any more.

    Eventually, Bob Iger will wake up and realize that what is wrong at WDW has nothing to do with needing more budget cuts and everything to do with needing a magic infusion.
  2. mratigan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dustysage
    George, you have Put your finger on exactly what is wrong with WDW these days. They have systematically removed the little details like this to focus instead on mass retail and efficiency.

    I can understand why they did it . . . Profits. I just don't think they should have done it . . . Loss of magic.

    The erosion of magic details has made the Kingdom less fun and more like an elaborate shake down for your wallet. I'm not sure who is most responsible for the dismantling of the the magic details, but the company really needs to put someone in charge of Disney World who understands that the details and little nooks to explore and discover are just as important to creating the magic as the rides and attractions. They help make the parks real.

    In many ways, Universal is now the company creating magic environments in Florida, while Disney has been busy dismantling them. It's no wonder that WDW is struggling and Universal is rolling in the dough. WDW is so far off the right path, that I truly don't think they know where it is any more.

    Eventually, Bob Iger will wake up and realize that what is wrong at WDW has nothing to do with needing more budget cuts and everything to do with needing a magic infusion.
    I agree 100% with dusty
    sady it is true
  3. craig's Avatar
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    How many people are going to buy flowers at WDW these days? I wonder what the sale/waste ratio was.

    I like that they joined all of the shops so a person can bypass the parade crowd and also stay out of the rain for the length of Main Street.
  4. lightningbug419's Avatar
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    Now that i'm done raving about a million 80's videos that this inspired me to watch on youtube....This also makes me mourn the loss of the Cinema and Penny Arcade. I absolutely LOVED those when I was little.
  5. dolewhipdude's Avatar
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    What was great about this side street was that it was a mini-attraction. It was the one place on Main Street where you could step out of the crowds and be surrounded in "Main Street-ness" (made that up) - you could really get a feel for a turn-of-a-century town different from the big promenade down to the castle. There was always a photo opportunity - whether with the flowers as seen in this article or with an old-fashion sleigh around Christmas surrounded by Pointsettas.

    For our family, it was always a "must-stop" on the way to the hub. It was definitely a loss in 2001. The enclosure they built does nothing to plus the theme of Main Street nor the Emplorium. It was definitely a decision that put profit ahead of theme. Walt learned in Disneyland and always put theme first. Too bad the decision makers in Florida still haven't learned that lesson!
  6. Wreckless Abrandon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by craig
    How many people are going to buy flowers at WDW these days? I wonder what the sale/waste ratio was.

    I like that they joined all of the shops so a person can bypass the parade crowd and also stay out of the rain for the length of Main Street.
    I think you're missing the point. The Flowers added to the theme. Even though only a handful of people would buy live flowers (and I'm sure most would rather have the Beauty & The Beast light up flower) just by having the flowers there adds so much to the illusion of a boardwalk/ Main Street.
  7. SpectroMan's Avatar
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    Were the flowers even for sale? I think they were just for decor. At any rate, they really looked gorgeous!
  8. ImagiNERDing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dolewhipdude
    For our family, it was always a "must-stop" on the way to the hub. It was definitely a loss in 2001. The enclosure they built does nothing to plus the theme of Main Street nor the Emplorium. It was definitely a decision that put profit ahead of theme. Walt learned in Disneyland and always put theme first. Too bad the decision makers in Florida still haven't learned that lesson!
    Sadly, you are correct. Of course, one argument is that now you can cross from the Hub to Town Square without getting wet or stopping for the Parade. Except that the parade exit/entrance comes out at the front of the Emporium.

    I do have hope with the Fantasyland Expansion, though.
  9. steve2wdw's Avatar
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    For the record, the flowers were all artificial. Definately beautiful, but definately fake. I too, miss West Center Street.
  10. MrTour's Avatar
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    With all the room behind the buildings for expansion, it doesn't make sense for Disney to gobble up West Center St. Unless, of course, it was just cheaper to do so.
  11. ImagiNERDing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrTour
    With all the room behind the buildings for expansion, it doesn't make sense for Disney to gobble up West Center St. Unless, of course, it was just cheaper to do so.
    Look at what is for sale in that section of the Emporium--kid's clothes (princess stuff, mostly) and toys! It must be a big ROI for Disney. Still, nothing beat the charm of West Center St.
  12. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve2wdw
    For the record, the flowers were all artificial. Definately beautiful, but definately fake. I too, miss West Center Street.
    They weren't always fake. In the beginning they sold real flowers.