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Vintage Walt Disney World: The Meaning of ‘Contemporary’

Nate Rasmussen

by , Librarian, Walt Disney Archives

With the recent announcement of the health and wellness suites planned for Disney’s Contemporary Resort, I began to wonder what the guest rooms looked like when the resort opened.

Disney’s Contemporary Resort in September of 1972

Lucky for me, I didn’t have to dig too deep to find this shot of a guest room from September of 1972. Did you know that the resort’s hotel rooms were put together on an assembly line at a special plant at a rate of approximately 15 per day?

Disney’s Contemporary Resort Present Day

When comparing that room with the current guest room, clearly the meaning of “contemporary” has changed over the years. I believe the table and chairs from the 1972 room is back in style again! Who has a set at home? I know there is someone!


  • This sort of interior design is really popular right now. Wish you’d consider bringing some of that mid-century feel back to the resorts! The new design is lovely, but this would make it stand out.

  • I stayed here the very first time my family went to WDW. We stayed at the West Wing. I remember that massive painting in the concourse. Thanks for the pix.

  • I think I remember this room from when I was really little. It was a mint greenish/navy blue color theme? And there was a giant map of the property on the wall not seen?

    Mary Blair Grand Canyon Concourse type of picture on the wall behind the bed?

    I definitely remember watching the Electrical Water Parade from the balcony though.

  • Does anyone remember how much it cost to stay at Contemporary or Polynesian around the time Walt Disney World first opened? We visited Magic Kingdom the third day it was open, October 3rd, 1971, but since we lived less than two hours away we didn’t stay overnight. Thanks, KC

  • We stayed at the Contempory when Disney World first opened. We even visited the Visitor’s Center that was set up before the park opened. Hard to believe it’s been 40 years!

  • We stayed in 1976 or 1977, and the room pictured above is as I remember it. I think the room also had a 3rd bed, a day bed/sofa like, that our son slept in. We visit the Contemporary every year but haven’t stayed there in years. The Grand Concourse is just as I remember it, but the lower level has changed very many times. On one visit, there was a movie theatre showing old Disney “live action” movies. It was at the back of a very large room of arcade games that our children loved.

  • First stayed at the Contemporary resort in 1974 on our honeymoon. I don’t remember the table and chairs but don’t doubt they were there. Will have to check our pictures!

  • The first time I stayed there, the rooms wer decorated in purple, black and Yellow

  • That’s fantastic! We have not stayed at the contemporary resort, but love this pic of what it looked like back in the day. Thanks for posting!

  • We stayed at the Contemporary in January and loved it! Sadly I never visited as a child so seeing the old pics is awesome. I love the “mid century”, “jetson” and “vintage” looks! It takes me back to when we would watch Wonderful World Of Disney. I always wanted to visit as a child, I am now making up for it by visiting as much as I can! Strange question but is the picture availiable as a print to frame because I would love to order one??

  • I’ve always loved the Contemporary. I’ loved it so much I joined DVC to stay at Baylake Towers.

  • We stayed here as a kid every two years. I remember being on the balcony (always the 10th florr tower park facing) and watching the fireworks. Great memories. thanks so much!

  • How about pix of how the rest of the resort has changed? The exterior, the Grand Canyon concourse, “top of the world”….

  • Love, Love, LOVE seeing vintage Disney pics!!!! It’s awesome! “Heather from AL.” is Right! – You DO have an awesome job working in Disney Photo Archives!!

  • We honeymooned there in Jan ’73. We remember it well….and have a picture of me in one of those chairs. Thanks for the trip back in time…..
    We will return in Nov this year! Can’t wait!!

  • How do you attach a picture?

  • The rooms have changed throughout the years-we have pictures of the rooms from 10 years ago and they look completely different now.

  • Oh that’s awesome. We stayed in a room like that when I was about 12.. I’m 42 now.. Brings back memories.. Post some more vintage pics of the other hotels and the parks please..

  • Oh wow…I love the colors…BUT is that a SINK on the left side of the photo? that would be akward…don’t you think? But love it anyway…

  • I remember this very well, as I was one of the first hires for the Contemporary back in July, 1971. The original idea in the A frame building was to update the rooms by sliding out the old room and sliding in a brand new updated room. US Steel was the contractor for the work, but it appears that when Disney dropped the contractor sponsorships, that ended the plan. Probably a whole lot cheaper, too, to just replace all the furniture! Each new room would have cost as much as a small house, I’m sure!

  • Thanks for posting those. I love those vintage images!

  • Thank you for posting these vintage images! I love this and the one of the Mexico pavillion under construction. You have an awesome job – I would love to work in Disney archives!

  • those beds look so comfy, i just wanna climb in them and sleep. which is weird, since im laying in my own bed right now typing this. hahaha

  • I can just imagine the colors of that original room – retro, to say the least!

  • I love the mid-century modern style! Although 1972 is hardly mid-century. The new chairs look only slightly less uncomfortable 😉

  • Thanks for pictures and story. I love the see the history of Disney.

  • I stayed at the Contemporary and Polynesian in 1972 and 1973 and I can remember seeing pictures of our room in family albums. I will have to locate those albums and do a scrapbook page of then and now since Disney World is celebrating its 40th year.

    Now I married a wonderful Disney fanatic and we didn’t even think twice when we joined the Disney Vacation Club to enjoy our favorite home away from home year after year.


  • Oh ,how I remember those original room’s. Used to love sittin’ out on the balcony watching the boat parade’s at night as a kid! Thanks for the bringing back the memories Nate!

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