It’s easy to imagine the Contemporary Resort as a fixture of the Bay Lake area and not really contemplate the history, trials and tribulations the hotel underwent to get to the incredible place it is today.
Originally, the Contemporary was to be named “The Tempo Bay Resort”, which was scrapped near opening day to just the Contemporary Resort, Walt stated he liked simple names and titles for things that accurately described what things are. Arranging and furnishing rooms out of the hotel structure, and then using a crane to lift the unit into place was unprecedented; the hotel was being fitted with rooms at a pace of up to 15 units per day. The hotel encountered various setbacks, from workers sleeping on the job and creating phantom employees to cash additional checks to stealing, but the show had to go on, even if there was still a crane standing next to the hotel the night before opening day. Needless to say, the crane was taken down overnight, as that would contradict Walt’s belief that the guest should never be taken out of the magic, and the floodgates were opened.
A monorail traverses through its future daily route as construction on the Contemporary chugged along.
In 1973, a tumultuous time in American politics, at the height of the Watergate crisis, Richard Nixon gave one of his most famous speeches and moments of his career at the Contemporary. In front of over 400 managing editors of the press, he said to the people of the United States “People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook”. from a conference room on the second floor of the hotel, further solidifying the relationship Disney had with current events.
The Contemporary Resort has had a staple of dining and entertainment at the very top of the building since its inception. In 1971, this establishment was known as the “Top of the World Restaurant”, Top of the World was a place where you could watch Vegas-style performances, and drew in a sold-out crowd nearly every night. In June of 1983, a spectacle by the name of “Broadway at the Top” took this restaurant on the 15th floor to the next level. Over time, America’s tastes and needs changed, and Walt Disney World as a whole evolved in its offerings. In 1995, the Top of the World restaurant became the California Grill.
Nightly performances of “Broadway at the Top” made The Contemporary Resort a fixture for on-property entertainment.
The Contemporary Resort is not only an architectural and artistic marvel even to this day, it is a testament of Walt’s vision for the future. Walt Disney is known for innovation, pushing boundaries and remaining curious and only curiosity can lead people to new paths; it just so happens that some of those paths lead to incredible buildings, dining, entertainment and memories to last forever, no matter what year it is, fixtures like the Contemporary remind us of where we’ve been and are an example of where we can go.
While you’re here, take a deeper dive at what this incredible hotel has to offer!