See the Grand Floridian Beach Resort when it first opened at Disney World

See the Grand Floridian Beach Resort when it first opened at Disney World (1988)

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Coming soon: Grand Floridian hotel at Disney World (1988)

It’s around the turn of the century, say, somewhere between 1890 and 1910

America’s well-to-do, the corporate moguls, the shipping magnates, the famous and the infamous, prepare for the annual winter migration to the land of endless sunshine.

Led by the likes of John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, and even President Theodore Roosevelt, this glittering troupe embark on their yearly trek in search of respite from winter’s wrath.

Once in the welcoming warmth of the southern sun, rowboats and palm fans replace snowshoes and potbelly stoves. And swirling snowfalls are relegated to their proper position — decorating Christmas cards.

Grand Floridian Beach Resort 1988

The most popular destination of the day is Florida — swaying palms and white sandy beaches, just a few days down the coast from the bustle and noise of Wall Street. Here the pace slows down, and the pilgrims do the same.

The men, resplendent in baggy flannel trousers and jaunty boaters, stroll along the boardwalks, accompanied by women fashionably attired for the season, complete with complementing parasols to protect fair skin from the sun’s brilliant rays.

MORE: Old Florida hotels & historic resorts: Trip back to these amazing Victorian vacation destinations

Of course, accommodations must match the splendor of their visitors. Seaside resorts, all vying to cater to America’s elite vacationers, provide that touch of home every traveler secretly longs for — in this case, opulent appointments in elegant surroundings.

Well, we’re back in the 1980s again, but the richness of that bygone era is about to be recreated for us at Walt Disney World when the Grand Floridian Beach Resort welcomes its first guests early this summer. 

In fact, this may well be the first resort of its kind since the golden age of Henry M. Hagler and Henry Plant. But this time, it has all the advantages of 21st-century living, including air-conditioning and Monorail service that stops right beside the 19th-century Grand Lobby.

With this service, the Grand Floridian becomes the first Disney hotel built on the Monorail system since the opening of the resort in 1971. The new 40-acre complex is situated on the west shore of Seven Seas Lagoon, between the Magic Kingdom and Polynesian Village Resort.

Grand Floridian Beach Resort concept drawing from 1988

Like all Disney developments, the Grand Floridian theme is carried through architecture, landscape, furnishings and costumes.

The style of the buildings is reminiscent of the Victorian era, but is more playful and relaxed — embellished by wide verandahs, intricate latticework and balustrades.

The landmark towers and red shingle roof of the main building make a dramatic first impression. In addition to the main building, which houses the most luxurious accommodations on the Disney property, the complex includes five lodge buildings of four and five stories.

Room decor features soft, spring-like colors and print wall coverings, armoires and other furnishings in light woods and wicker, as well as marble-top sinks with old-fashioned fittings.

A cage elevator, aviary, palms and ferns set the mood in the sitting area of the 5,800-square-foot Grand Lobby, which reaches five stories to a Victorian ceiling adorned with illuminated stained-glass domes and sparkling chandeliers.

Shops continue the theme by means of displays featuring turn-of-the-century items, and dining opportunities at the Grand Floridian are diverse, including a seafood bar/restaurant on a romantic shoreline location. Of course, recreation is water-oriented — white sand beaches, a marina, pool and spa.

John D. would be proud.

Grand Floridian Beach Resort at Walt Disney World (1988)

Journey back to the turn of the century… to another time and another place. The Grand Floridian Beach Resort. An oasis of elegance that’s the first of its kind since the golden age of pleasure travel.

Bright white towers and gabled roofs echo the Victorian architectural influence that has come to symbolize Florida’s carefree winters and balmy summer nights.

And inside, the towering five-story Grand Lobby is capped by three illuminated stained glass domes, glittering chandeliers and gleaming brasswork.

ALSO SEE: Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent rides and adventures at the theme park in Tampa, Florida (1987)

At its center, a grandiose gazebo is an ornate aviary for a covey of rare Australian Rosy Bourkes… exotic pink parakeets that epitomize the period’s rococo style.

Yet nowhere else is more attention paid to thoughtful details than the Grand Floridian’s 900 guest rooms and suits; accommodations are the most luxurious on Disney property.

The Grand Floridian Beach Resort is open now and accepting reservations for single night or longer stays.

The Grand Floridian Beach Resort — Walt Disney Worldir?t=clickamericana 20&l=ur2&o=1

Grand Floridian Beach Resort at Walt Disney World-november-1988

Disney’s Grand Floridian Beach Resort in 1994

Grand Floridian Beach Resort at Disney World 1994

MORE: See what Disney World in Orlando, Florida, looked like when it first opened in 1971

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