BACKSTORY (June 12, 1957–December 1967): One of two free attractions sponsored by Monsanto (the other was the Hall of Chemistry) was this walk-through tour of a plastic house with plastic furnishings and fascinating modern appliances such as dishwashers, microwave, intercom system, and closets filled with polyester clothes. Designed by Marvin Goody & Richard Hamilton, the house only existed for the 10 year length of Monsanto’s lease, at which time they moved on to the Adventure Thru Inner Space attraction. Goody & Hamilton were MIT architecture faculty members sponsored by Monsanto to find new markets for their plastic products. They took 2 years to design the 1,280 sq. ft. home, at which time they formed their own private firm to take over the commercial planning of the project. Disney felt the Monsanto House was a perfect fit for Tomorrowland and offered the space to Monsanto. Construction began at Disneyland on January 7, 1957. The house was made from eight prefabricated white plastic sections with large windows and was anchored to a solid concrete foundation that was earthquake rated. The house consisted of a central square room with four wings. The kitchen & bathroom were in the center, and each wing had one room: master bedroom, children’s bedroom, dining room, and a living room. Each wing was made of fiberglass modules placed one on top of the other to form the ceiling, floor, and wall; the remaining two walls were windows. When the modules arrived at the park, ready for assembly, the Disneyland receiving clerks thought they were part of a boat, and not a Home of the Future. Preview day was June 11; actual public opening on June 12. Although 60,000+ guests toured and were awed by the home each week, it wasn’t a very viable housing concept at the time and was eventually removed.
When it was dismantled, the house was so indestructible that the crew gave up and left some of the support pilings in place (they can still be seen in Neptune’s Grotto between the Tomorrowland entrance and Fantasyland). Supposedly the planned one-day demolition ended up taking two weeks as the wrecking ball just bounced off the exterior. Workers cut the house into pieces with hacksaws. After it was removed, the house’s landscaping, waterfalls, and walkways (and sturdy base!) remained. The area, renamed “Alpine Gardens,” became home to a souvenir stand. In 1995, the King Triton & Ariel sculptures and fountains were added.
On February 13, 2008, Disney announced that the House of the Future was returning: a 5,000 sq. ft. tract home would be built and ready for guests by May 2008 inside of the Innoventions Carousel. Instead of Audio Animatronic figures, actors would portray the family (The Elias family) that lives in the house. By the time the “home” was opened, it was titled “Innoventions Dream Home,” as it was more innovative than futuristic. To see photos of the Dream Home, click here.
Tom Lundin has done a heckuvalotta’ work in recreating this Mid Century masterpiece. I have featured some of his renderings below, along with the vintage photos of the actual structure. I have also had the good fortune of receiving some photos directly from Goody Clancy, the Boston Firm that designed the Monsanto House. Many thanks to David!
CoxPilot, The House of the Future, and living in “Modern Times”: I'd been to the House of Monsanto many times, and it was a great place to get out of the heat. Every time we visited Disneyland in later years, we would have to walk through. I don't really know any “back stage”stories, even though I worked only a hundred yards from it. I remember the electric tooth brush (with the cord that pulled out of the wall), the sink in the bathroom that went up and down for adults or kids, the “radar range”(microwave) oven, the cabinets and dishwasher that were retractable, and the couch that had a reversible back so you could sit on either side. All that stuff was seen by millions of people…and me.
Around 1958 my parents decided to remodel our house. They wanted to change our little bungalow home into a “modern” style home. My mother sat at the kitchen table for months with a blue squared pad and pencil designing the kitchen of her dreams This project was a big deal for her because she didn't drive and was dependent on the local Santa Ana buses. Buffum’s was her favorite store. After we visited Disneyland, she seemed to get inspired by all the modern equipment. Six months later we had (what I called) our Monsanto of the Suburbs. We had orange, yellow, and green furniture (Danish modern), and our copper colored refrigerator had an ice maker & freezer on the bottom with temperature & humidity controls. We had TWO ovens in the wall, each independently controlled with timers and temperature controls, and the bottom oven had a turn table. The all electric stove top was in the counter and it had a grill in the center that was removable for washing. We now had several other new machines that were a wonder: the sink was a triple job, with a disposal in the middle and a cool Dishmaster faucet that had soap in it (you just pushed the button on the handle of the brush and out came the soap). The dishwasher (we never had one before) was a top loader that rolled out like a drawer, and would hold every dish in the house (Mother only used it for big pots & pans). And; last but not least, we had a TV in the dining room that was on a roll out drawer that was part of the phone desk. We still only had one phone in the house that was located at a special built-in desk, but it DID have a ding-dong chime instead of a ring, and IT WAS GREEN, with a light up rotary dial. We also got a second car.
All this stuff was amazing to me because the times we lived in up to that point were sparse. My Grandparents, who lived half a mile from the park, still had ice delivered for the ice box by a horse drawn wagon, and a single black phone on the wall that had a separate ear piece and a mic on the wall. It had a dial installed later that was a separate unit on top (it was an upgrade when automatic switching replaced operators). Their stove was gas, but no pilots, and was lit with matches, and all the pipes were on the outside. The only heat was a fireplace, and it had big windows for cooling.
You can see why many people thought Disneyland was such a wonderful place. It was truly magic.