Main Street, Fort Collins Felix Wong

Last week’s Fort Collins Weekly had an interesting article about how Disneyland’s “Main Street, USA” came to be—apparently, it was modeled after Old Town Fort Collins! The story, as told by The Weekly‘s Barbara Fleming, goes like this:

When Harper Goff met Walt Disney at a model-train store in England in 1951, neither man knew where the chance encounter would lead. Goff, a collector, had gone to the store in hopes of purchasing a particular train that he was told another buyer also wanted. When Goff returned to the store later to see if the train was still available, he met the other buyer – Disney. Disney got the train. Goff got a job.

An artist, Goff was not new to California—he’d sketched for Warner Brothers before moving to New York City to create art for Colliers and other magazines.

It soon developed that Disney was starting a huge new project, a theme park that would recreate Disney movie sets and characters and boast a special attraction—Main Street, USA. Goff joined the design team.

Thinking about Main Street, Goff recalled with fondness the downtown of his youth, in Fort Collins.

Born in Fort Collins in 1911, where his father was a newspaper man with the Fort Collins Express—Courier Goff lived here for about a decade. So when it came time to design Disneyland’s Main Street, he showed his boss photos of some downtown buildings he’d known here. Disney selected several to be copied for his fantasy small-town main street.

The original Victorian courthouse, demolished in 1957, served as the model for Disney’s City Hall. Other buildings Disney replicated included the First National Bank, the Linden Hotel, and the old Colorado and Southern Railroad depot. The angled streets that characterize our downtown and the grassy median that once graced the College and Laporte intersection inspired the streetscape at Disneyland’s Main Street entrance.

In his book, Main Street Revisited, Richard Francaviglia says Disney was seeking to recapture the Victorian-era sense of calm and order that prevailed in much of smalltown America in the 19th century. In Fort Collins and his hometown of Marceline, Mo., Disney found just the right structures to turn his vision into reality.

Fascinating. Now I wonder how Goofy and Mickey Mouse came about (somehow I don’t think Fort Colliins can take credit for them).

If you enjoyed this article, please consider receiving my weekly newsletter. I typically write about endurance cycling, travel, self improvement, Colorado living, marathon running and epic adventures.



Related Articles

Leave a Comment