The First Ever Disney World Resorts

Building Disney World
Credit: Disney Parks Blog

Disney World has so much to offer. Since opening day, Disney has been a place of adventure and magic for Guests. Many things have changed, grown, and improved since October 1, 1971, but some things, delightfully, have stayed the same.

Before Walt Disney World opened, Roy O. Disney set out to have two Resorts open for opening day. Those Resorts were Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Today, both Resorts still stand tall as iconic favorites.

Many Imagineers at this time helped develop and create some of the parts of Disney World we all know and love. These Resorts are no different. The story goes that Howard Roland penned a letter to Roy Disney, asking for a job with building Resorts as the newest challenge in his career. And well, the rest is history!

Using engineers, the United States Steel Corporation, and the plans of WED Enterprises, which is now Walt Disney Imagineers, these two Resorts started to come to life.

Building Disney World

Credit: Disney Parks Blog

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Contemporary Resort

While Howard was spearheading this project, he was responsible for everything that went into the Contemporary. From the steel to the lobby decorations, he was charged with completing the project for opening day. He met Mary Blair, whose mural became a focal point in the Contemporary lobby. Howard was inspired by her work and said in an interview with Disney, “I always had respect for Mary and for John for letting her be creative in her own way and do her own thing.”


Credit: Disney Parks Blog

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Polynesian Village Resort

With development underway, it is no secret that Imagineers were pulling inspiration from Polynesia and trying to create a theme reflecting it. Disney Parks Blog details, “An early concept for Disney’s Polynesian Resort featured a 12-story tower, a bold design that might have looked more at home among the luxury hotels on Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach.” Eight months before opening, the plan for a village layout was instead underway.


Credit: Disney Parks Blog

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Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are staples of Disney World. Looking back on his work, Howard recites that building both of these Resorts was some of his most significant accomplishments. Have you visited either Resort?

About Sarahfina LoFaso

Sarahfina is an author, and adjunct professor with a passion for writing and of course, all things Disney! Cinderella is her favorite princess and movie, both the animated and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 1997 version. In close second place is Hercules, tied with Saving Mr. Banks. Sarahfina enjoys writing about the history of Walt Disney and all the parks, along with food, dining, and resorts. Her favorite ride is the Tower of Terror, and her favorite restaurant right now is the San Angel Inn, in EPCOT. Most importantly, her must-have snack every Disney trip is the controversial turkey leg, because it reminds her of her family trips as a kid with her grandparents.