By the late 1940’s, as the California suburbs expanded, and more and more Californians were out and about in their cars, and more and more tourists were coming to the Golden state, Walt Disney began dreaming a very special, very complicated, and very expensive dream—a dream that combined many dreams, if you will.
And the genius folks at the Stanford Research Institute told Walt just where to build his dream: Thirty miles south of Los Angeles, in Orange County, in a quilt of orange and walnut groves and strawberry fields. Though Anaheim was still very small, and very sleepy, it was about to become the population center of California, smack-dab near a convergence of freeway interchanges that would make it exceptionally convenient for locals and tourists in those restlessly prowling cars.
Anaheim itself had been something of a dream, the utopian fantasy of Bavarian vintners and grape growers who settled Anaheim in the late 1850’s. When the grapes were annihilated by insects thirty years later, the resilient residents regrouped and began growing citrus fruits and nuts. Anaheim’s bucolic beauty attracted dreamers like the brilliant actress Helena Modjeska; in the late 1800’s she settled in Anaheim and built her own dream-like residential compound, Arden, in what is now Modjeska Canyon.
Orange County has been the site of vast cattle ranches, vast citrus groves, and vast oil fields, of Modjeska’s Arden, and Reverend Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral, of Friedrich Conrad’s interpretation of Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, of seaside Fun and Joy Zones, of Knott’s Berry Farm among many, many, many other eclectic attractions large and small.
So when Walt Disney built his dream—some would say it’s still among the greatest dreams ever conceived and realized—he built it in a territory already well known for its utopias and fantasies ..."
From "The Disneyland Book of Secrets 2014" available now at Amazon.com.
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