If Walt Disney’s Carolwood Estate (and surrounding miniature railroad) was the inspiration for Disneyland, than this home is the heart of it, and actually is situated in the center of the Disneyland park in Anaheim. Disneyland was the first and only theme park to be directly designed and supervised by Walt himself, and was the realization of his dream to build a family friendly place where Disney fans could come and enjoy attractions (such as his miniature railroad, inspired by his pet project at his Carolwood home). The first major “themed area” at the entrance to the park is Main Street USA, designed to model the ideal of a turn of the century town. Featuring a City Hall (the headquarters for guest relations), fictional and real shops and businesses, and a firehouse, Main Street USA is both a fun attraction and an exercise in urban planning.
While Main Street USA is a feature found in every Disney theme park worldwide, Disneyland’s Main Street has a unique and historical feature. Until recently, few people knew that the upper floor of the firehouse on Main Street is in fact a private apartment for Walt Disney and his family. From his personal home inside Disneyland, Walt oversaw much of the parks construction, as well as its opening day, from the front window of the apartment that looks out over Main Street USA. Few people have ever seen the inside of the apartment, and until recently there were no pictures released of the family in the home.
While the Disney family was in the apartment, important guests to the park would be invited up- often Walt called to them from the window and told them how to get in from the back of the firehouse. Now that nobody is actively living in the apartment, it is used to house important guests, hold private meetings, and preserve Walt’s memory. Guests who purchase (in addition to park admission) the “Walk in Walt Disneyland’s Footsteps” guided tour are taken to the apartment as part of the tour, but no personal photography is allowed inside the apartment, except for a singular group photo opportunity.
Today, the interior of the apartment looks almost exactly as it did when it was being used by the Disney family. Even though much of the original furniture from the apartment was reclaimed by Lillian Disney in the years after Walt’s death, (some pieces are now on display at the Disney Family Museum), the apartment still retains its authentic feel with a mixture of original pieces and skillful replicas. Both Walt and Lillian (his wife) had a fondness for Victorian design and aesthetics, and the décor reflects this inspiration. Academy Award-winning set designer Emil Kuri designed and decorated the apartment, including many features and trinkets that the Disney had picked up on his travels- such as collections of little china teacups and ceramic pieces. Lillian Disney had a fondness for cranberry glass, and shades of cranberry red are the dominating colors of the apartment.