Page 13 - JUNE 2015
P. 13

tourist destination in Central    of $5 million for 27,443 acres.   half of Walt’s Florida Project,
Florida.                          After an Orlando Sentinel         were announced. Despite Walt’s
Meanwhile, in California, an      reporter caught wind of what      dream of creating “Progress
entrepreneur named Walt           was really going on, Walt Disney  City,” these plans were dropped
Disney opened his fantasy         allowed Governor Haydon           after his death as the decision
theme park, “Disneyland,” in      Burns to announce the project     was made to stick to theme
1955. Although the park was       during a press conference. A few  parks instead of attempting to
successful, it drew mostly local  weeks later, Walt explained his   manage a city.
crowds. Hoping to tap into the    plans for the project in detail,  The addition of Walt Disney
east coast’s tourism market,      including the Magic Kingdom       World created a second boom
Walt began scouting a location    and his Experimental Prototype    in the demand for road side
for a second Disney park. He      Community of Tomorrow, also       attractions in Central Florida.
was drawn to central Florida      known as EPCOT.                   Putt-putt golf locations, themed
due to family ties to the area.   Sadly, Walt Disney died of        restaurants such as Medieval
His parents, Elias Disney and     lung cancer in 1966 prior to      Times, and concepts such as
Flora Call, were married and      seeing his dreams of the Florida  Xanadu: the “Home of the
lived in Acron, Florida (near     Project completed. His brother,   Future”, became prevalent
present day Mount Dora) in        Roy. O. Disney, postponed his     throughout Osceola and
1888. After the great freezes of  retirement to see the project     Orange counties. Many of these
1894 and 1895, Elias decided      through to the finish. Site       attractions eventually closed,
against continuing as a citrus    preparation began in 1967,        but others such as Gatorland
grower and they relocated to      and construction of the Magic     and Medieval Times continue to
Illinois, where Walt was born in  Kingdom and its resorts began     be a successful draw in Osceola
1901.                             in 1969. Nearly 9,000 workers     County.
In 1965, Walt began purchasing    were hired during this period to  Tourism began in Osceola
large portions of land near       help create Walt Disney World.    County long before Walt Disney
and within Osceola County         This included the 200-acre        World, but the theme parks
using dummy corporations to       man-made Seven Seas Lagoon,       have pushed tourism to be
avoid a land speculation boom.    two golf courses, three resorts,  biggest industry in Florida. A
Flatlands, swamps, and cattle     and the Magic Kingdom. The        total of 94.7 million visitors
pastures were bought from local   total project cost an estimated   came to Florida in 2013, beating
families in secret through real   $400 million.                     2012’s record tally of 91.5
estate agents. Huge tracts of     In 1975, initial building plans   million. The industry employed
land were purchased—some at       for EPCOT Center, the second      a record 1.09 million people in
only $100 per acre—for a total                                      2013, up 2.9 percent annually.

                                                                    The tourism industry has come
                                                                    a long way from the early days
                                                                    of steamboats and railroads,
                                                                    but Florida’s natural beauty
                                                                    continues to be a draw for
                                                                    tourists looking for an escape
                                                                    from the hustle and bustle of the
                                                                    attractions. Time will tell what
                                                                    the next phase of tourism in
                                                                    Florida will bring!

                                                                    OCHS HISTORY MAGAZINE | 13
   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18