ST. LOUIS — This week's Vintage KSDK takes us back to 1955, when Disneyland officially opened in Anaheim, California. The theme park was the brainchild of the late Walt Disney, who was an early pioneer in animation and the production of cartoons.
Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois, and spent a good part of his childhood in Kansas City, Missouri. His love of drawing began in high school. Disney would go on to help develop the character Mickey Mouse in the late 1920s. He expanded into the amusement park industry with the opening of Disneyland in the 1950s.
Fast forward to the fall and winter of 1964 when a plan was in the works to bring a Midwestern Disneyland to St. Louis.
Walt Disney himself visited our town in late 1964 and gave city leaders some ideas for the project.
"It's all really contained within a shell,” said Disney. “It will be in one building and we will have our own sky and we will have complete control of the weather through the summer and the winter."
It would be located just north of Busch Memorial Stadium, which was then under construction. The proposed site was a two-block strip of land where the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark sits right now.
Proposals called for a town modeled after Disneyland's Main Street, but with a St. Louis and New Orleans flavor.
"The children go there, and they have a ball,” explained Disney. “And they're under control. And I feel that might very well happen here."
But from the beginning, some thought the site wasn't big enough. And the price tag, estimated at between $30 million and $50 million dollars, was too rich for the local group interested in investing.
By early July of 1965, Disney himself turned down a proposal from the city of St. Louis.
In the end, financing was the deal-breaker. Disney had insisted the entire project would have to be paid by St. Louis investors, without any financial help from the Disney corporation at all.
Channel Five reporter Bob Chase took to the streets to ask St. Louisans how to fill the void. They suggested everything from a music venue, to something modeled after Rockefeller Center.