Many of you may have heard of a place called Marceline, Missouri. Walt Disney lived there as a boy, and it's rumored to have been the basis of Main Street in Disneyland. Well, I was fortunate enough to be spending some time with my family in a town only an hour's drive from Marceline last week, so I convinced my family to take a little side trip!
A two-hour drive north from Kansas City, Marceline is a little town that survived on the railroad industry. That is, it did until the 1980s, when the train line decided to no longer stop there, devastating the local economy. Still, if you’re a die-hard Disney fan, this town is a must-see, as there’s several little tidbits just waiting to be uncovered.
A postcard from Marceline. The text reads:
Elias purchased 45 acres in Marceline from his brother Robert at a price of $125 an acre, promising installment payments with his money he was to receive for houses in Chicago that Flora had designed and he had built.
In the spring of 1906, the Disney family packed up their belongings and moved to Missouri.
Walt Disney only lived in Marceline for 5 years, but it seemed to leave an impression on him, as in his later years he returned often as a favored son of Marceline.
A View of Kansas Ave, or Main Street, USA, depending on whose building you read the address from.
The architectural stylings of Main Street are glimpsed here, and there are even signs on the street pointing out significant locations.
This one’s a little blurry, sorry. The text reads:
Walt Disney’s hometown of Marceline today is much as it was when he lived here. The first plans of Disneyland show a remarkable resemblance to the town, with it’s [sic] store fronts on main street and locomotives coming and going. All who enter Disneyland travel down the main street Walt created from his memories of his childhood in Marceline. He hoped to give all visitors the impressions and sensations he had in Marceline as a boy. Walt wanted people to feel comfortable, he wanted them to feel like they were coming home. Welcome to the original Main Street USA.
Yes, I did take a picture of this building, but sadly it came out backlit. All you can really make out is the outline.
The Disney influence can be seen in many of the businesses here, from realties to this little window dressing in the bar!
But there’s got to be more to Marceline than just a little street, right? Correct you are my friend! Let’s walk a block off Main Street to the old Santa Fe train depot, now a museum dedicated to Walt Disney.
There’s no photography allowed inside, so I can’t show you anything, sadly. But I can say that Walt’s school desk is on display, as well as family papers and photographs. They even have a Midget Autopia car on display. (Marceline has 8 cars; I’ll talk about that more later.) The building is still being remodeled, so the second story is not yet opened, but the volunteers at this not-for-profit museum assured me they had much to add, as Ruth Disney left the museum many of her items when she passed on. There is a small donation fee to see the museum, but it seems worth it to help out with keep this bit of Americana alive. Be sure to stop by the gift shop on your way out, too.
One of two pins on sale here. Pin collectors, be the envy of all those in the park when you come walking in with this hard to find collectible!
A book about Marceline, made for Walt’s 100th birthday.
Two more postcards, showing various sections of town. Note the E.P. Ripley train with “Disneyland R.R.” on it, an addition requested by Disney himself.
Take some time browsing the museum, but don’t stop there. There’s more to see! A few blocks past Main Street, you’ll come to a park with an unusual sign:
Dedicated July 4, 1956, Walt, Roy, and their two wives returned to Marceline to personally attend the dedication festivities. This was proud moment for the town indeed. But this isn’t the only thing Disney in the park. Remember those 8 Midget Autopia cars? Why does Marceline have so many? The answer is that Marceline has the Midget Autopia!
Walt intended to attend the relocation of this ride from Disneyland, but only days before he would leave, he sent a message talking of a terrible cough he couldn’t shake. He passed away that December.
The ride’s not looking too good these days, and as you can see, the track is no longer present. But Marceline is optimistic that they can restore the ride one day.
But where did Disney himself live? Would you believe his house still stands? Would you believe it’s still a private residence in use today?
Here it is, folks! Walt Disney’s childhood home – though the extension to the right of the chimney was an addition made after the Disneys’ tenure, and I believe the house was yellow in Walt’s time.
What remains of Walt’s “dreaming tree.” Walt would sit under its branches and imagine whole new worlds. A seed from this tree was planted on Tom Sawyer’s Island in Disneyland, too.
A postcard of Walt’s barn. Now stay with me here, as this can get a little confusing. This is a recreation of the Disney family barn, built using blueprints of the barn in the backyard of Walt’s Burbank, CA home. That barn was made according to memories of the Marceline barn. The blueprints were acquired for Marceline when the Burbank barn was moved to Griffith park.
Catch all that? No? Sorry. I may need to draw up a diagram.
Why would Marceline build a recreation of Walt’s barn? Good question! Aside from an additional point of interest for tourists, it’s the beginning of the town’s determination to complete Walt Disney’s Missouri Project. When Walt returned to Marceline for the park dedication in 1956, he met with the townspeople to quietly repurchase his childhood home. His idea – to create a working farm that would educate and entertain tourists to the life of a farmer. Unfortunately the plans stalled, and with Walt’s untimely passing, Roy found himself knee deep in Walt Disney World’s construction. He couldn’t dedicate the time to the Missouri Project, so the plans were dropped. Now however, Marceline has other plans.
Interested in visiting Marceline? Interest sufficiently piqued? Well, here’s a scan of the town’s pamphlet. Read up on what they have to offer.
Check out Marceline’s website at http://www.marceline.org/. Marceline has some annual festivities you may be interested in.
Well, that’s all from me.
So long, folks!