Story of Downtown Disney

DisneyPrincess5

Well-Known Member
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Anyone know what Downtown Disney opened as. I heard it was a village or something

:wave:
It was formerly known as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village and then Disney Village Marketplace.
 

chaggy102

Member
Yes it was originally a shopping Village...with plans to expand and create housing like the original prototype of Epcot, but those plans never occurred. Now if you were looking for a story, there was one that went around this past week about the backstory to Pleasure Island and I'll give credit to Taryn Solomon Lane as I got the story from her.

In 1911, a Mississippi side-wheeler steamed into Lake Buena Vista and dropped anchor next to a low-lying hummock of sawgrass.

The skipper was exultant. What Menlo Park was to Edison, what San Simeon would be to Hearst, this island would be to him. It would be a one-man, dominion-manufacturing center, research lab and development facility, a social nexus for the famous and well-to-do. In short, it would be a place to make his dreams come true. Crying "Fun for all, and all for fun!," this eccentric inventor, industrialist and bon vivant named Merriweather Adam Pleasure leapt ashore.

Pleasure had come to Florida to become the world's foremost supplier of sails. This seemingly hare-brained scheme, hatched at the end of the great era of merchant sailing, was in fact a gold mine. After four years of successful manufacturing, the outbreak of World War I brought a huge world demand for canvas, and Pleasure's fortune was assured.

Living on the boat with his wife, Isabella, his sons Stewart and Henry and his daughter, Merriam, Pleasure began to build his island empire. Cast iron, cement block and timber appearing on the island alerted the local populace (which at that time were simply a couple of alligators and a family of herons) not only that something was up on Pleasure Island but that something was going up. Buildings were built for the manufacture, assembly, and distribution of Pleasure Canvas and Sailmaking, Ltd's products.

First to dominate the Pleasure Island skyline were the imposing canvas fabrication plant (which became the home for "Mannequins") and the sailmaking factory, both constructed in 1912. They were followed in 1913 by the power wtation and the administration building (now known as the "Island Depot"), a wooden shack housing Pleasure Island's paymaster/accountant/bookkeeper who operated it as a telegraph office, mailroom, first aid station, and social center.

The low-lying buildings of Chandler Row were constructed as Pleasure extended his business to refurbishing the yachts of the rich and famous. Along the Row were a brass foundry, upholstery shop, tool crib, and graphics shop, all dedicated to the "Pleasure Principle" of lavish, unique yacht ornamentation.

The Pleasure family soon outgrew their showboat home. In 1918, they moved to a Bermuda-style mansion overlooking Lake Buena Vista (now known as the "Portobello Yacht Club"). However, Pleasure hadn't accounted for his own magpie impulses. Soon, the house was overflowing with booty collected from his exotic voyages. By 1920, the exasperated Mrs. Pleasure threatened to eject her husband from the house unless he found a place for the books and artifacts collected on his journeys.

Pleasure built himself a large library on the opposite side of the island. The place became the headquarters for "The Adventurer's Club," where Pleasure's zany band of yachting cronies and globe-trotting hangers-on swapped tall tales and displayed exotic souvenirs from their travels.

The boom of the 1920s brought prosperity and experimentation to Pleasure Island. A new canvas mill was built, the island was electrified and the former power station became home to the Pleasure Thespian Players (now, known as the "Comedy Warehouse"). In 1924, Pleasure sent to China for the world's leading fireworks expert, the Bang Master. Together they built fireworks in a combination laboratory/bunker until a stray spark from Pleasure's pipe leveled the place (it later became a barbeque restaurant known as the "Fireworks Factory").

So Merriweather quit smoking and turned to less combustible hobbies. By 1927, his collection of desert plants was in danger of overrunning the fragile Central Florida ecology. After a personal visit from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (who dubbed his host "The Grand Funmeister"), Pleasure built a greenhouse to contain his "prickly pals" from around the globe (this showcase became the country-western club called the "Neon Armadillo").

Meanwhile, Pleasure's sons were proving to be "chips off the old blockhead," as their mother often said. While "Awkward Stewart" Pleasure pursued the sporting life (when not nursing an injury), Henry, who was known as "The Mad Genius of Lake Buena Vista," began development of a Cellular Automaton, a sort of of computerized robot, inside the Artificial Intelligence Lab, built in 1929 (the automaton was still alive and thriving in 1987 and guided the rebuilding of its home into "Videopolis East").

Demand for the outfitting of luxury watercraft came to an abrupt end in 1929 with the catastrophic decline of the St. John's Aquifer. Merriweather immediately commissioned the J-Boat "Dominoe" and after formally turning over his business to his two sons, set off for a series of around-the-world adventures with his daughter, Merriam.

Between journeys, Pleasure returned to his beloved island and devoted himself to a quest for reusable energy. He was so convinced that "the Power of the Planet" could be harnessed that he converted his canvas-making factories to labyrinthine laboratories.

The mysterious Building X, which was part wind tunnel, part foundry, and part laboratory, was built in 1937 for constructing the "X-Thing," an experimental flying vessel that could harness the power of the wind. The first and only test flight on September 1, 1940 prompted Pleasure, the plane's pilot and sole passenger, to begin broadcasting to outer space from the roof of Building X. The message in Morse Code was "Welcome" (the building later became the "XZFR Rockin' Rollerdome").

In 1941, the Grand Funmeister's favorable fate reversed itself. While circumnavigating Antarctica, the Dominoe pitchpoled in a savage summer storm. It was later reported that all aboard including Merriweather and Merriam Pleasure were lost at sea.

The Pleasure enterprises encountered smooth sailing in the wake of the founder's death. Sailmaking and chandlery continued into the 1950s, augmented by a flying boat service. But by 1955, Pleasure's heirs were bankrupt. The final blow was inflicted by Hurricane Connie, which rendered the buildings unsaleable and their contents strewn across Lake Buena Vista by the winds of change (it was that same hurricane that created "Typhoon Lagoon" and a crate from the Fireworks Factory is in that location).

The once-bustling harbor community became a ghost town. But in 1987, Disney Imagineers discovered the island among the acres of Walt Disney World resort property. Some buildings were renovated and some were reopened. Pleasure Island became a nighttime hot spot with seven nightclubs, 12 shops, and a 10-screen movie theater.

Over 75 years had passed since Merriweather Adam Pleasure and "America's First Family of Fun" came ashore at Pleasure Island when the renovated nightspot opened, but according to the Disney Imagineers, "Along the streets of this reawakened Island you can sometimes catch a glimpse of a portly, but strangely ethereal man, dressed in a yachting cap and natty plus-fours. Or perhaps you'll be sitting in a restaurant booth or a cozy corner of a nightclub when you hear a voice murmur quietly, 'Fun for all—and all for fun!' "

Even this storyline couldn't include everything. "Superstar Studios" was originally "Mrs. Pleasure's Music Parlor" and the home to her gargantuan collection of 78 rpm Italian opera records. "Suspended Animation" was established in 1924 as "Navigational Pleasure Graphics Ltd." where R. North Camilpoter handpainted the bows of yachts that Pleasure refurbished. There are many more stories about the island left to tell.
 

Cmdr_Crimson

Well-Known Member
Yes it was originally a shopping Village...with plans to expand and create housing like the original prototype of Epcot, but those plans never occurred. Now if you were looking for a story, there was one that went around this past week about the backstory to Pleasure Island and I'll give credit to Taryn Solomon Lane as I got the story from her.

In 1911, a Mississippi side-wheeler steamed into Lake Buena Vista and dropped anchor next to a low-lying hummock of sawgrass.

The skipper was exultant. What Menlo Park was to Edison, what San Simeon would be to Hearst, this island would be to him. It would be a one-man, dominion-manufacturing center, research lab and development facility, a social nexus for the famous and well-to-do. In short, it would be a place to make his dreams come true. Crying "Fun for all, and all for fun!," this eccentric inventor, industrialist and bon vivant named Merriweather Adam Pleasure leapt ashore.

Pleasure had come to Florida to become the world's foremost supplier of sails. This seemingly hare-brained scheme, hatched at the end of the great era of merchant sailing, was in fact a gold mine. After four years of successful manufacturing, the outbreak of World War I brought a huge world demand for canvas, and Pleasure's fortune was assured.

Living on the boat with his wife, Isabella, his sons Stewart and Henry and his daughter, Merriam, Pleasure began to build his island empire. Cast iron, cement block and timber appearing on the island alerted the local populace (which at that time were simply a couple of alligators and a family of herons) not only that something was up on Pleasure Island but that something was going up. Buildings were built for the manufacture, assembly, and distribution of Pleasure Canvas and Sailmaking, Ltd's products.

First to dominate the Pleasure Island skyline were the imposing canvas fabrication plant (which became the home for "Mannequins") and the sailmaking factory, both constructed in 1912. They were followed in 1913 by the power wtation and the administration building (now known as the "Island Depot"), a wooden shack housing Pleasure Island's paymaster/accountant/bookkeeper who operated it as a telegraph office, mailroom, first aid station, and social center.

The low-lying buildings of Chandler Row were constructed as Pleasure extended his business to refurbishing the yachts of the rich and famous. Along the Row were a brass foundry, upholstery shop, tool crib, and graphics shop, all dedicated to the "Pleasure Principle" of lavish, unique yacht ornamentation.

The Pleasure family soon outgrew their showboat home. In 1918, they moved to a Bermuda-style mansion overlooking Lake Buena Vista (now known as the "Portobello Yacht Club"). However, Pleasure hadn't accounted for his own magpie impulses. Soon, the house was overflowing with booty collected from his exotic voyages. By 1920, the exasperated Mrs. Pleasure threatened to eject her husband from the house unless he found a place for the books and artifacts collected on his journeys.

Pleasure built himself a large library on the opposite side of the island. The place became the headquarters for "The Adventurer's Club," where Pleasure's zany band of yachting cronies and globe-trotting hangers-on swapped tall tales and displayed exotic souvenirs from their travels.

The boom of the 1920s brought prosperity and experimentation to Pleasure Island. A new canvas mill was built, the island was electrified and the former power station became home to the Pleasure Thespian Players (now, known as the "Comedy Warehouse"). In 1924, Pleasure sent to China for the world's leading fireworks expert, the Bang Master. Together they built fireworks in a combination laboratory/bunker until a stray spark from Pleasure's pipe leveled the place (it later became a barbeque restaurant known as the "Fireworks Factory").

So Merriweather quit smoking and turned to less combustible hobbies. By 1927, his collection of desert plants was in danger of overrunning the fragile Central Florida ecology. After a personal visit from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (who dubbed his host "The Grand Funmeister"), Pleasure built a greenhouse to contain his "prickly pals" from around the globe (this showcase became the country-western club called the "Neon Armadillo").

Meanwhile, Pleasure's sons were proving to be "chips off the old blockhead," as their mother often said. While "Awkward Stewart" Pleasure pursued the sporting life (when not nursing an injury), Henry, who was known as "The Mad Genius of Lake Buena Vista," began development of a Cellular Automaton, a sort of of computerized robot, inside the Artificial Intelligence Lab, built in 1929 (the automaton was still alive and thriving in 1987 and guided the rebuilding of its home into "Videopolis East").

Demand for the outfitting of luxury watercraft came to an abrupt end in 1929 with the catastrophic decline of the St. John's Aquifer. Merriweather immediately commissioned the J-Boat "Dominoe" and after formally turning over his business to his two sons, set off for a series of around-the-world adventures with his daughter, Merriam.

Between journeys, Pleasure returned to his beloved island and devoted himself to a quest for reusable energy. He was so convinced that "the Power of the Planet" could be harnessed that he converted his canvas-making factories to labyrinthine laboratories.

The mysterious Building X, which was part wind tunnel, part foundry, and part laboratory, was built in 1937 for constructing the "X-Thing," an experimental flying vessel that could harness the power of the wind. The first and only test flight on September 1, 1940 prompted Pleasure, the plane's pilot and sole passenger, to begin broadcasting to outer space from the roof of Building X. The message in Morse Code was "Welcome" (the building later became the "XZFR Rockin' Rollerdome").

In 1941, the Grand Funmeister's favorable fate reversed itself. While circumnavigating Antarctica, the Dominoe pitchpoled in a savage summer storm. It was later reported that all aboard including Merriweather and Merriam Pleasure were lost at sea.

The Pleasure enterprises encountered smooth sailing in the wake of the founder's death. Sailmaking and chandlery continued into the 1950s, augmented by a flying boat service. But by 1955, Pleasure's heirs were bankrupt. The final blow was inflicted by Hurricane Connie, which rendered the buildings unsaleable and their contents strewn across Lake Buena Vista by the winds of change (it was that same hurricane that created "Typhoon Lagoon" and a crate from the Fireworks Factory is in that location).

The once-bustling harbor community became a ghost town. But in 1987, Disney Imagineers discovered the island among the acres of Walt Disney World resort property. Some buildings were renovated and some were reopened. Pleasure Island became a nighttime hot spot with seven nightclubs, 12 shops, and a 10-screen movie theater.

Over 75 years had passed since Merriweather Adam Pleasure and "America's First Family of Fun" came ashore at Pleasure Island when the renovated nightspot opened, but according to the Disney Imagineers, "Along the streets of this reawakened Island you can sometimes catch a glimpse of a portly, but strangely ethereal man, dressed in a yachting cap and natty plus-fours. Or perhaps you'll be sitting in a restaurant booth or a cozy corner of a nightclub when you hear a voice murmur quietly, 'Fun for all—and all for fun!' "

Even this storyline couldn't include everything. "Superstar Studios" was originally "Mrs. Pleasure's Music Parlor" and the home to her gargantuan collection of 78 rpm Italian opera records. "Suspended Animation" was established in 1924 as "Navigational Pleasure Graphics Ltd." where R. North Camilpoter handpainted the bows of yachts that Pleasure refurbished. There are many more stories about the island left to tell.

I think byfar that this was the best backstory from the Resort..I know quite a few plaques are still up (but this was prior to Sept/Oct 2008) I was able to get a few pics of the plaques.
 

chaggy102

Member
I think byfar that this was the best backstory from the Resort..I know quite a few plaques are still up (but this was prior to Sept/Oct 2008) I was able to get a few pics of the plaques.

I agree 100%..I felt so stupid...a few friends and I went to TL and when I saw the fireworks on the ground I forgot the backstory and started to question why it was there...but yeah that backstory is classic Disney.
 

jedimaster1227

Active Member
The Background of Pleasure Island

While it isn't directly focused on Downtown Disney as a whole, it gives alot of background on the origins and growth of the complex, including the majority (if not all) of the backstory of Pleasure Island.

Our own Jackie Steele wrote and delivered this history walk during our World Wide Weekend event back in September of 2008.
 

agent86

New Member
The Background of Pleasure Island

While it isn't directly focused on Downtown Disney as a whole, it gives alot of background on the origins and growth of the complex, including the majority (if not all) of the backstory of Pleasure Island.

Our own Jackie Steele wrote and delivered this history walk during our World Wide Weekend event back in September of 2008.

Ummm.... or you could not click on the link and just read chaggy102's post (since it's basically the same information). :hammer:
 

marni1971

WDW History nut
Premium Member
The Village opened as The Lake Buena Vista Shopping Center in March 1975. It was originally to be the shopping area for the planned residential complex to the north and the office plaza to the south, and served by WEDway which would in turn link to the eastern Monorail line.

The residential area was scaled down greatly and became the Village resort (the downtown complex was never built) and only one of the 13 office buildings was opened in July 1978. The name changed over the years, stores came and went, and then Pleasure Island opened a year late in 1989. Prior to this a New Orleans themed expansion was planned in the same area. The coming of West Side blurred all the areas into one, and the powers that be decided it was easier to remove the pesky night clubs which formed a perceived barrier between the two shopping districts than to add a fourth phase to the village, which is now just a regular waterside mall.
 

brkgnews

Well-Known Member
Ummm.... or you could not click on the link and just read chaggy102's post (since it's basically the same information). :hammer:
Thanks for your glowing support of my writings. :rolleyes:

If anyone would like to actually read it rather than glance and make assumptions, the article Adam spoke of not only includes the Disney "storybook" version of Pleasure Island, but also how the entire Downtown Disney complex and Pleasure actually came into being in the real world, as well as real-life histories of some of the clubs on the island.
 

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