BACKSTORY (Oct. 5, 1955–Present): First “Disney” hotel although not Disney owned until 1988. Disneyland construction costs kept Disney from building a hotel. Disney approached a number of hotel chains in 1954, but all felt that the Disneyland venture was too risky. Instead, he negotiated a deal with his friend Jack Wrather to build and operate one. Wrather had the rights to use the Disneyland Hotel name on any hotel in California until 2054. Four years after Wrather died, The Walt Disney Co. bought the entire Wrather Corporation, which also gave them the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach and the rights to The Lone Ranger & Lassie TV Series.
Designed by the firm of Pereira & Luckman, the initial 100 room capacity hotel opened on October 5, 1955, approximately 3 months after Disneyland opened. At the official ribbon-cutting ceremony (held much later on August 25, 1956) for the $10,000,000 development were Bonita Granville Wrather, Alan Ladd, Mrs. Helen Alvarez, Jack Wrather Jr., Jack Wrather III, Mrs. Jack Wrather Sr., Yvonne DeCarlo, and William Bendix. A tour of the hotel and dinner in the private banquet room followed the dedication ceremonies. At the time of opening, the hotel featured a heated Olympic-size swimming pool, a children's wading pool with a lighted and colored water fountain, a huge restaurant, convention center, shopping center, golf course, and shuffleboard courts. Each room had its own parking space as well as a private patio or balcony...AND a TV! The luxury rooms had wide-screen color TV! Free shuttle tram service left the hotel every five minutes, whisking guests off to Disneyland. Eventually the hotel featured the Monorail Plaza, a shopping center built in June 1961 and demolished in the late 1990’s for Downtown Disney. The hotel consisted of three guest room towers: Marina, Sierra, and Bonita. Other buildings in the complex house restaurants, stores, offices, recreational facilities, and convention/banquet facilities.
The off-center placement of an exterior elevator shaft at the Sierra Tower created space constraints which required the neon sign atop the building to read “Hotel Disneyland.” During a 1966 expansion, the sign was corrected. The sign was later removed and replaced with a mural featuring shooting stars. The Shipyard Inn and the Sailmaker's Den opened when the Marina debuted on Saturday, March 28, 1970. The Marina had a very limited opening in December of 1969 but it is more likely the restaurant opened in early 1970. The Shipyard Inn continued operations until being closed on January 3, 1999, when it was replaced by Hook's Pointe Restaurant and Wine Cellar on April 8, 1999.
From the December 15, 1977 Disneyland Line internal newsletter:
"Sir Edward's, A Store for Men," opened Monday, December 5, in the Disneyland Hotel Shopping Complex with a full assortment of men's clothing and accessories. As with all Disney operated shops at the Hotel, Disney employees receive their regular discount at "Sir Edward's."
OFFICIATING AT THE opening of "Sir Edward's" are Bo Boyd, Vice President of merchandise for Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Frank Brett, President of Wrather Hotels, and Bob Erickson, Manager of UNOCO West.
After acquiring the hotel in January 1988, Disney announced a multi-million dollar upgrade to the hotel (slated for summer 1990), which included the 1174 guest rooms (304 in the Sierra Tower, 367 in the Bonita Tower, and 319 in the Marina Tower), lobbies, elevators, the porte cochere (main entryway), Grand Ballroom (a new crystal chandelier from Milan), and Exhibit Hall. Museum-quality exhibits of historic Disneyland memorabilia were also added.
The remaining “Disneyland Hotel” neon signs for the Marina & Bonita Towers were removed in Dec. 2005 (neon signs were eventually outlawed in the Anaheim Resort District; the Marina & Sierra signs were replaced with smaller ones).
Signs from several of the stores & restaurants (the original Garden Rooms, Travelport, Hotel Shops, Olympic Pool, and Plaza Building) were kept after the demolition and are on display in the hotel’s employee cafeteria. Included is a large “End of an Era” posterboard signed by visitors and employees of the Monorail Cafe during its last months of operation. All of the original Disneyland Hotel was removed in mid-1999. Steakhouse 55 was once called Granville’s Steak House (named after Wrather’s wife’s maiden name, Bonita Granville, a famous child actress of the 30’s/40’s).
Many thanks to Don Ballard for all of his help on my Disneyland Hotel page!
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FROM THE DISNEYLANDER, JANUARY 1957
TOUR OF HOTEL'S LATIN IMPORTS—UNIQUE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
The Disneyland Hotel's Latin Imports shop is Milady's headquarters for the finest in fashion for her and her home. Here she will find exquisite imports form the fashion centers of Mexico, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and South Central America; delight in the exotic jewlry from the worshops of the leading designers of the Latin countries; she will discover gift wares of unusual beauty for her home.
While you browse you will find everything from sportswear to evening wear, blouses and skirts of hand-loomed fabrics, and dresses for all occasions, knit-wear, cotton play clothes, belts and quechquemetls (stoles) fashioned from the designs of Luisa Spagnoli, Polly Rodrigguez, Jim Tillett, and Maya De Mexico; and for the home you may choose an original oil painting or wood carving, or accessories in ceramic or hand-blown glass from excio and Italy.
Chris and Lois Portillo, operators of this out standing shop are always pleased and proud (and rightly so) to show you the fine wares they bring back with them from their shoping tours…and speaking of shopping tours…I need a few things to take my winter wardrobe out of the doldrums…and come to think of it, Spring will be here sooner than we figured…
Let's all go shopping…at the Latin Imports of course.
OVERHEARD AT THE GOURMET
The bartender was selling Martinis cocktails to a man who drank them down, ate the glasses and set the stems in a row on the bar.
After the fifth drink the bartender couldn't stand it any longer, and confiding in another customer at the end of the bar said: "Say that guy must be nuts."
"Sure he is, the stems are the best part."
DON BALLARD’S BOOK ADDENDUM
Many of you have probably seen Don Ballard’s excellent book on The Disneyland Hotel. He has now released a new book that includes all the material from the original book as well as new information and photos. The first edition will consist of only 500 copies—so don’t delay! Don was gracious enough to send me a copy and it is OUT OF THIS WORLD! The new edition covers small sections of the original book supplemented with all the new info and photos he has acquired since the book was published in 2005. Visit his website to order your copy today: http://www.magicalhotel.com/
Cox Pilot and the Coral Club
The Coral Club
An additional amenity at this time was the Coral Club which included a huge 45'x 75' completely tiled and heated swimming pool, wading pools for children of all ages, fountains, sandlots, and a cabana area. The pools were surrounded by lounge furniture for guests’ relaxation and so that they might acquire a Southern California tan. One-day laundry and dry cleaning services were available, and a physician and nurse were on call. An 18-hole putting green and shuffleboard courts were also early inclusions at the Disneyland Hotel Coral Club.
From the publicity blurb that accompanied the photo at right:
Disneyland Hotel, the Official Hotel of Disneyland Park, numbers the Coral Swim Club among its many outstanding attractions. Designed and priced for family fun, the Disneyland Hotel features private patio or sun deck for each room, free TV, parking at your door and modern spacious guest rooms designed to accommodate 1 - 4 persons each.
FROM THE DISNEYLANDER EMPLOYEE NEWSLETTER, NOVEMBER 1961
DISNEYLAND HOTEL TOWER TO RISE ELEVEN STORIES
Formal ceremonies were held recently saluting the start of construction on the tallest building in Orange County, the eleven-story Disneyland Hotel Tower.
The ground breaking ceremonies marked another milepost in the remarkable growth of the Disneyland Hotel. Opened in 1955 with 100 rooms, it is now the largest hotel in Orange County. At present, it contains 306 rooms, a banquet hall capable of accommodating various sized groups raning up to 1,000 people, dining room, coffee shop, cocktail lounges, an exclusive dining club, and a large shopping arcade.
Other facilities include an Olympic-sized swimming pool, cabanas, playground area, putting green, and the recently completed 18 hole, 3 par golf course, a 50 tee driving range, and a miniature golf course with a Disney-designed motif.
Under construction now, and scheduled for completion by December 1st, is the 12,000 square foot convention and exhibit hall, which will accommodate more than 1,400 persons in theater fashion or 1,200 persons for banquets.
Disneyland Hotel Tower is being erected in the center of the 60 acre complex, and will feature deluxe living accommodations (150) of more than 500 square feet each, as well as a roof-top Presidential Suite with 2,000 square feet of living space.
A spectacular glass elevator shaft on the building's modern exterior will whisk guests up to the cocktail lounge, which will be tired in three levels to afford a panoramic view of the hotel grounds and Disneyland area through the tinted glass walls.
The Tower has been projected as a soaring structure of charcoal-tinted solar glass relieved by vertical precast white concrete and horizontal wrought-iron railings. The building will rise out of a Japanese garden reflecting pool, which surrounds the base. Cantilevered over the pool, a
promenade will circle the Tower and connect to the building by means of six bridges.
The Disneyland Hotel Tower will not only be the tallest building in Orange County, but also a most beautiful addition. (Editor's Note: The Park's Matterhorn Mountain will still be the tallest manmade structure. It's 146 1/2 feet high and the Hotel Tower will be 118 fee high.)
BACKSTORY: Richard Nixon running for Governor of California 1962 is seen here at the Disneyland Hotel on April 27, 1962 for the Orange County Nixon Committee Dinner. Note the "Boxing elephant" (Dumbo) image to the left of the negative and the " KEZY radio / Disneyland Hotel" sign to the right of the photo. Nixon was running for Governor of California in 1962 after losing to Kennedy in the 1960 Presidential election; Nixon lost this election as well.
- April 12, 1960
- April 12, 1960
- April 12, 1960
- April 12, 1960
- April 12, 1960
- April 12, 1960
- June 1960
- June 1960
- Dec. 1961
- Dec. 1961
- January 1962
- July 1962
New Tower Rendering, 1962
Restaurant Interior, Aug. 1962
- Nov. 1962
- Dec. 1962
Disneyland Hotel and Parking Lot, September 1963
- Jan. 1964
- Feb. 1964
- March 1964
- Tram Station, March 1964
- Peter Sellers and family, April 1964
- June 1964
Daveland reader Ross was kind enough to share his score card and photos from the beloved Golf Centre/Miniature Golf Course that used to be at the Disneyland Hotel. Here are Ross' memories:
The DL Miniature Golf Course was visible from the monorail station at the DL Hotel. It depicted Disneyland in miniature and was there from the late-'50s/early-'60s to around 1981. It was owned and operated by the Wrather company, which of course also ran the DL Hotel. And that's probably why it had fallen into some disrepair by the mid-'70s when I first visited it.
It was my first experience with miniature golf and is still high on my list of all-time favorite miniature golf courses. It's also among my all-time favorite Disneyland attractions. As far as where it was, throughout the '80s and '90s there was a strawberry field in its place with a parking lot next to it (the original parking lot for the golf course) across the street from Disneyland and separated from the Hotel by a minor street (Cerritos). Thus, certain features of it (particularly the miniature Matterhorn) could be seen from the monorail station as well as by people exiting Disneyland's parking lot on the hotel side.
I remember a lot of the holes, but there are also a lot that I don't remember at all (e.g., the octopus lair, skull rock...). I see that the Mickey Mouse fountain is listed as the last hole. My memory is that it was visible at the beginning.
Other memories: there was music from Disney films played in the different areas. For example, "Alice in Wonderland" music was played at the putt related to that attraction. (The putt itself had obstacles: large cards standing up that you had to maneuver the ball around.)
Main Street, U.S.A. consisted of the train station and I believe store fronts. At Sleeping Beauty Castle, you had to get your ball over the castle drawbridge. I vaguely remember the Moon Rocket (a facsimile of the TWA/McDonnell Douglas rocket*, which was absent from Disneyland by the time I started visiting the golf course) and Autopia (where I seem to recall road signs and a cloverleaf). As I mentioned, I don't recall Octopus' Lair; however, I have spoken to another person who went there, Mike Oppenheimer (who would play there while his father, renowned golfer Joe Oppenheimer, practiced on the traditional golf course, which was on the same premises). He recalled the octopus being brownish (like the one on Submarine Voyage), and you had to thread the ball between the arms.
The Painted Desert was an area where I especially noticed signs of disrepair. There were holes in the fiberglass cliffs. The Frontierland hole featured a miniature of the Mark Twain Steamboat. Monstro has always stood out in my memory and was a miniature version of the one at Disneyland. You were supposed to hit your ball into his mouth.
In the 1990s I tried to research the golf course and actually corresponded with a few Disney Imagineers (e.g., David Mumford) who remembered it from their own childhood. I never could find out if Disney was involved in designing it.
*A friend of mine remembers being able to see the Moonliner from outside the golf course, along with the Matterhorn and painted desert, while exiting the Disneyland parking lot.
Jason at Disneyland Nomenclature sent in this information from The August 1961 Disneylander Newsletter:
The most interesting miniature 18 hole course is practically a replica of Disneyland itself. It will be completely lighted for night play and many feel it will be so popular with Disneylanders as well as Hotel guests and residents of the Disneyland area that it will be the wee small hours of the morning before it closes for the night.
Each hole on the miniature course will remind players of one of Disneyland's many features. As an example, the first tee is a replica of the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad Station at the Main Entrance to the Park, while the third tee has a miniature of the Fantasyland castle, draw bridge, courtyard parapet and rock island.
The fifth tee represents the Matterhorn ticket office and the hole will feature raceways to three separate greens and will include two metal tubes for crossing the bobsled waterways.
The seventh, eighth and ninth holes will remind players of the Rocket to the Moon, the Submarine Voyage and the Richfield Autopia respectively while the eleventh will consist of rock work, benches, and simulated cacti.
The Frontierland area is easily recognized in the next three holes with a reproduction of the Frontierland Fort entrance, Indian Village and the Grist Mill on Tom Sawyer's Island.
The popular Story Book Land adventure is reproduced on the fifteenth hole with a replica of Monstro the Whale while Peter Pan and the adventures of the Darling children will be seen and enjoyed on the next hole.
The eighteenth and final hole will feature a water fountain showing Mickey Mouse himself, holding a golf club, which will make a fitting finale to a delightful experience for anyone who cares to play a game of miniature golf, the Disneyland Hotel way.
The Disney art director on the miniature course has been Yale Gracey and Al Applegate [Engineering] has acted as the coordinator of construction. Other Disneyland experts who have supervised the construction include Andy Anderson [Carpentry], Larry Smith [Paint Department] and Bud Washo [Staff Shop]. Their advice is that even Disneylanders who have never had a golf club in their hands should be sure to try a game as soon as possible.
[caption] Mickey Mouse makes a fitting finale at the eighteenth hole of the new Miniature Golf Course at the Disneyland Hotel.
Below, you can see photos that Ross shot in 1997 of what used to be the Golf Centre:
1) The building where clubs and balls were rented/admission paid. 2) The parking lot. 3) The site of the miniature golf course, up close, as seen from the edge of the parking lot.
UPDATE: Ross has sent some images from a vintage park map, which I have included below. As he explains: I recently noticed that the Disneyland Miniature Golf Course is included on a souvenir wall map I have from the early '60s. The map is dated 1964. I believe it was done by Imagineer Sam McKim (sp?). The map also features the Flying Saucers in Tomorrowland; as well as the unrealized Edison Square; and there's no dinosaur diorama, just the Grand Canyon. The Jungle Cruise has both the veldt and the elephant pool.
BACKSTORY: Thanks to Daveland reader Bill H., you can see some gorgeous 1980's color photos of the Dancing Waters show that was formerly at the Disneyland Hotel. What a history it has! This information has been edited from Chris Jepsen at The OC Historical Blog:
Otto Przystawik built the first musical dancing fountain in Ballhaus Resi in 1928. Dancing Waters debuted at the West Berlin Industrial Exhibition in the summer of 1952. The Los Angeles Times described the show as being "Composed of several thousand feet of steel pipe, 19 electric motors, 4,000 jets, 60,000 watts of power and 38 tons of water. ...Two New York showmen who saw it promptly booked the thing for Radio City Music Hall... Contracts have been signed for shows in Atlantic City, Toronto and Dallas, following one in London at Coronation time."
Harold Steinman stumbled upon the Przystawik show in Berlin and made a deal to use Przystawik's shows under the Dancing Waters name in the western hemisphere. Later, it toured throughout Europe under Hans Hasslach on behalf of Dancing Waters USA. The show had to be "played" almost like a pipe organ. The movements of the fountains lagged behind the signals sent by the operator by a few seconds, so Hasslach had to stay a little ahead of the music and lights at all times.
After being viewed by some 1,500,000 people at Radio City Music Hall, the show traveled to the Los Angeles Home Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in June 1954. It was such a hit that the program was brought back year after year.
The European shows were all set up and operated by Przystawik staff. In the US, Gunter Przystawik toured with the Dancing Waters and during that time did his best to train the show operators in Przystawik's art of water show choreography. Between home shows, Dancing Waters traveled from event to event. It was a highlight of the 1954 L.A. County Fair. In early 1955, it traveled to Las Vegas to mark the opening of the Royal Nevada Hotel. The hotel began calling itself "The Home of the Dancing Waters," but it didn't last. By 1956, it was making the circuit of small-time events like Neptune Days in Redondo Beach and the Community Fair in Ontario, California. A few years later, the show ended up back in New York. Freedomland, a Disneyland knock-off, advertised the "world-famous Dancing Waters" in 1962. That year, the L.A. Home Show had to settle for a smaller "replica of the famous fountain of dancing waters."
But the Dancing Waters show really made it big in 1964 when it was displayed throughout the run of the New York World's Fair. It was located in the "Lake Amusement Area," inside an inflatable "bubble" building From the1964 Guidebook: "Formations of water tinted by a kaleidoscope of colored lights sway to dance rhythms in an unusual spectacle that has been successfully presented in a number of cities all over the world. Sitting at an organlike console that controls both the lights and the height and direction of more than 4,000 jets of water, an operator creates a variety of visual effects synchronized with the music while a "butterfly" dancing girl waves a pair of 20-foot wings. For this production, an inflated theater has been erected - a plastic bubble that seats 400 and is supported by air pressure maintained by blowers. Admission: 50 cents till 6 p.m.; 75 cents evenings and holidays. Hours: 10 a.m. until midnight."
Almost immediately after the fair, the show returned to Southern California, where it had a one-week stay in Century City, celebrating the opening of the Century Square Shopping Center.
"The New Wonder of the Entertainment World!" trumpeted the ad copy. "Waters that actually dance! Combining color, music effects and visual beauty you've never seen before!...The wonder of the New York World's Fair..."
By 1966, the Dancing Waters show was back at the L.A. Home Show, where it would return each year until it was installed at the Disneyland Hotel. Oddly enough, in 1967 the show was right across the street from its eventual permanent home when it was part of the dedication ceremonies for the Anaheim Convention Center. In 1969, as the Disneyland Hotel was preparing a permanent place for the show, Dancing Waters made a final visit to Las Vegas, for a special event at the Circus Circus hotel and casino.
In May 1970, the Dancing Waters debuted in its new crescent-shaped amphitheater at the Disneyland Hotel. According to Disneyland Hotel expert Don Ballard:
"Mike Berkus (one of only nine people in the U.S. trained to play this show) was the Hotel's first director of the Dancing Waters.... While the program was changed frequently over the years, one selection was retained from the original presentation, 'The German Waltz.'"
In 1992, a few years after Disney purchased the Disneyland Hotel, the show was altered by a company called "Waltzing Waters"(run by Michael Przystawik, Otto's grandson) to become the Fantasy Waters Show. The new program included not only colored lights, water and music, but also fiberoptic displays, light panels, and other elements. The musical score took on a Disney theme.
The Fantasy Waters Show ended around 2007, and the area was greatly obscured during the 2010 Disneyland Hotel makeover. Today, landscaping blocks out what remains of the backdrop. At left is a photo from September 2011.
ADVENTURE TOWER: ROOM 2137
ADVENTURE TOWER: ROOM 2250
BACKSTORY: The former Disneyland Hotel Marina became the site of the Neverland Pool, which opened in July 1999. Safari Adventure opened in December 1999 and was a fun attraction that featured miniature remote-controlled Jungle Cruise boats, people, animals, and scenery. Safari Adventure was designed and built by Thola Productions of Laguna Hills, California. Safari Adventure was removed when the property and pool area underwent a complete renovation in 2011.