BACKSTORY (Oct. 1, 1971–Present): Edited from Wikipedia:
The Contemporary Resort is one of two resorts located on property when Walt Disney World opened in 1971. Before the construction of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, it was considered the complex's flagship resort.
The Contemporary Tower, the most prominent of the resort's four stand-alone buildings, was built as an A-frame with outer walls which slope inwards around an inner atrium. This design was a collaboration by Disney, the United States Steel Corporation, and Los Angeles architect Welton Becket. To construct the building, steel frames were erected on-site and modular pre-constructed rooms, designed by California architect Donald Wexler, were lifted into place by crane. Most of Disney's Polynesian Resort and the Court of Flags Resort were built the same way, except rooms were stacked instead of slid in.
On November 17, 1973, President Richard Nixon delivered his famous "I am not a crook" speech in a ballroom at the Contemporary in front of reporters from the Associated Press.
In 2005, Disney began an extensive renovation of Disney's Contemporary Resort, and was completed in 2009. The project saw the updating of the main lobby and all guest rooms, the addition of several restaurants and gift shops, and the demolition of the hotel's north wing to make way for the Bay Lake Tower, which opened in 2009.
From the Walt Disney World website:
Disney's Contemporary Resort is an ultra-modern Disney Deluxe Resort, made up of a towering A-frame high-rise building—the iconic Contemporary Tower—and complemented by one garden wing annex. This lakeside Resort is the only hotel in Walt Disney World Resort to have the Walt Disney World Monorail System pass through the main concourse.
Boasting views of nearby Space Mountain attraction and Cinderella Castle, the Resort overlooks 4.5 miles of shoreline along Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon and is the closest hotel to Magic Kingdom theme park. At the hotel's award-winning California Grill restaurant on the 15th floor, dine in comfort as you behold nightly fireworks from the park. You can also pick up the monorail on the fourth floor to easily make your way to Magic Kingdom theme park and Epcot theme park.
The Contemporary Tower is home to most of the Resort's facilities, including Registration, Guest Services and the 4th floor Grand Canyon Concourse. In addition to the monorail station, this main hall houses 2 restaurants, various shops and a 90-foot, floor-to-ceiling ceramic mural created by Disney Legend, Mary Blair, celebrating the Grand Canyon and the Southwest.
The sprawling grounds include a marina, pools, restaurants, recreational facilities, a health club, tennis courts and convention facilities. Whether your wish is to relax on the white-sand beach by the pools, indulge in a revitalizing massage or savor sensational food as you take in stunning views, Disney's Contemporary Resort is sure to meet all your needs.
Disney's Contemporary Resort has been designated by the Florida Green Lodging Program, recognizing the Resort's environmentally responsible practices.
I worked at the Top of the World Restaurant in the Contemporary Hotel from 1974 through 1976. These pictures were taken in 1974, probably in the summer. The camera I had (and still have!) was a small Kodak. If only the technology was as it was today, I would have some great shots!
The pictures of the King Sisters came out too dark (old flash cubes!) but I still thought I'd include them with the others. All were taken from the Top of the World catwalks. I took one of the Contemporary Hotel from a distance; I was lucky to be out in Florida when it was wide open spaces!!!
I have many happy memories of my days as a cast member at the Top of the World. One of my favorite would be during the second show, all of us would go in the break room and watch Saturday Night Live back in the day when it was just starting and hillarious! Meeting celebrities was great too. I've been around a lot of celebrities ever since I was a kid, as my Dad sang with the Modernaires (1958 to 1964) and sang on the Red Skelton Show and the Danny Kaye Show. Thanks to that, I was used to it. In fact the Modernaires played at the Top of The World for a week and it was great seeing them as they (Paula Kelly, Vern Polk, and Hal Dickenson, God Bless their souls) watched me grow up.
I think the best story I can share was when my friend and I were taking a break in the cafeteria on a slow morning and our colleague came down and his eyes were as big as saucers. He said John Lennon was in the dining room. Well, we thought he was kidding, as we used to kid around a lot. Sure enough though, John Lennon was sitting on the lower level with a whole bunch of kids and probably Yoko Ono's family. That was a trip seeing him and being that close to him! My friends followed him to the restroom and got his autograph. I couldn't as I had been around several celebrities in the past as I mentioned, and felt I should leave him to his privacy! Still, it was an experience I won't forget!
One other quick one I can share was serving Lawrence Welk (just pouring his coffee) and he tipped me $5.00 dollars. In 1975, $5.00 had a bit more mileage to it!! He was a very cool guy. So was Buddy Greco; super cool as a matter of fact! Mel Torme, Rosemary Cloney, etc. Another interesting experience was when The Amazing Kreskin was peforming for a week—he was quite a talent!
I was quite fortunate to get hired at The Top of the World and to have been part of Walt Disney's dream! It was an honor and I had such a great time. Now it is the California Grill. The new Top of the World is in the structure next to the Contemporary Hotel which is a private club or special "Key Club.”
I can't wait to go back and visit. Just to see WDW and all of its growth seems so exciting!