Many Disneyland park guests don’t know that just behind Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland lies a very important piece of Disney history. The Pope House, once home to Owen and Dolly Pope, is the only house on Disneyland Resort property that remains from before the park was built.
As the original managers of the Pony Farm – now known as Circle D Corral – the Popes are key to the history of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. In a January 25, 1980, interview with Bob Matheison, they detailed the story of how they came to be part of the creation of Disneyland.
Owen met Dolly in December 1929 and they were married on July 13, 1935. Together, they showed horses at fairs throughout California – living out of their 30-foot van. In 1950, Disney Legend Harper Goff saw them showing horses at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles and recommended that Walt Disney see their show as well. Walt was interested in small ponies and equipment for a project he was working on (an amusement park which he planned to build adjacent to his Burbank studios). In March 1951, Walt met the Popes for lunch to talk about their ponies – which they thought he wanted for a film. It was at this lunch that he told them about his plans for building a park.
On the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1951, they moved to the Walt Disney Studio in Burbank. Other than military personnel housed there during World War II, the Popes are the only people to have ever lived at the Studio. Owen built 10 stalls for Walt’s horses using wood from the Studio’s own lumber supply, and he and Dolly lived in a trailer at the Studio for the next 2 ½ years. During this time, Walt visited them every day to chat about horses and his plans for Disneyland, and Roy Disney also visited them to discuss what people did at fairs and which types of shows they enjoyed there.
During the construction of Disneyland, when various structures were being moved from the property, Owen and Dolly were given their choice of the houses that were being moved. The house they chose was moved to the 10-acre Pony Farm, which would go on to be the Circle D Corral that we know today. The house – which the Popes moved into three days before Disneyland opened – is still at the corral today. The photo above gives you a glimpse inside the living room, as it would have appeared when Owen and Dolly lived there.
As preparations were underway for the opening of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Owen built the harness and riggings for the horses at the new resort from his home at Disneyland. In January 1971, he and Dolly moved to Florida, where Owen helped supervise the building of Tri-Circle-D Ranch. A few years later, in September 1975, Dolly became the first Walt Disney World Resort cast member to retire, followed by Owen in October.
So this is not something that can’t be seen by the general public correct?
I go to Disneyland once a month and am always looking for new things…and always seem to be suprised by finding something I have never seen. But can’t believe I would miss an entire house! 🙂
I don’t know if it was the Dominguez House, but there was one house on the back lot between the ‘Inn Between’ and the underpass to the Time Shack, that housed the offices of the ‘Operations Division’ of Disneyland (19?? – 196? when they built the ADMIN Building between the Time Shack and Mr. Lincoln). One room was for Main Street, one for Adventureland, another for Fantasyland…. and so on. Each room was ‘wall to wall’ desks for the Supervisors of that land. It was small, but personel! The interaction of the Management and the Employees back then was one of ‘mutual support and closeness’, it was a wonderful time to have worked there. I’m sure it was made that way by our amazing WALT. I miss those days!
The Pope House, had become the Disnelyland credit union annex office in the late 70’s. I took it over and had it remodeled as a office for my department in 1980. It became the home for the Disneyland Media Productions Office or as it was commonly known by most as Pony Farm Productions.
A CM told me that the Dominguez family home was moved from its original location (jungle cruise/indy area) to a backlot area near the old Harbor Blvd entrance and was used as an office. Much later it was eventually demolished but the original canary date palm which was a wedding gift to Mrs Dominguez is still present and right next to the fastpass area for Indy. I have seen the Pope house and did not know the history on it. Thank you for this great article.
This was an absolutely wonderful story! Thank you very much for sharing it.
Agreed Most facinating story to read. It is so fantastic how they preserved such history. I love to share with people the HISTORY that is DISNEYLAND. It truly is a step back into time when you visit, when you know these facts.
Thanks for sharing. Keep them coming.
Wow. I did not know that! I agree with Loren. That is pretty fascinating.
I read that the Dominguez Family home was left on the property and became offices or something. Is that The Dominguez Family home? Was the information I read false? Or is the Dominguez Family home no longer on the property?
I can’t believe I’d never heard of the Pope House! This is one of the most fascinating stories I’d read on the Disney Parks Blog in awhile. I absolutely love knowing this is back there…although, jealous that I can’t see it. 🙂
I love stories like this about Disneyland!
wow, very cool story. i love reading not only about stuff that is happening now – or in the future – but the stuff that made DL into what it is. i never noticed this house, can guests get a glimpse of it @ some vantage point?
What an interesting story! Imagine Disneyland going on around your house everyday. I wish I could meet Mr. and Mrs. Pope, I bet they could share some stories of their own.
Jason– If you look at the first couple of lines in this blog, you will see ” … only house on Disneyland Resort property that remains from before the park was built.” The house can be found behind the Big Thunder Ranch. It’s really cool to know about some of the very first cast members! 🙂
Read the article, the house was at Disneyland, just behind Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland.
Jason it is in the first paragraph, “The Pope House, once home to Owen and Dolly Pope, is the only house on Disneyland Resort property that remains from before the park was built.” It is located in Disneyland behind Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland. Pretty cool story, huh?
Forgive me, but both Disneyland and Disney World are mentioned in the blog. So which park has this actual house? Thanks.