YesterlandDisneyland Then and Now:
Subtle Changes

Main Street Station, City Hall, and the Golden Horseshoe are three handsome buildings that have been part of Disneyland since opening day. How much have these buildings changed? Surprisingly little. Let’s take a look...

Photo of Main Street Station, circa 1956
Main Street Station, circa 1956

Main Street Station is more than just a loading area for a ride. It’s the entrance to all of Disneyland, and it welcomes guests to another place and time. The Mickey Mouse flower bed has been a popular background for snapshots for a half century.

Photo of Main Street Station, 2005
Main Street Station, 2005

In this 2005 photo, the flower bed takes on a different look for Disneyland’s “Happiest Homecoming on Earth” celebration, which marked the 50th anniversary of Disneyland park. Main Street Station itself looks remarkably similar. Even the roof shingle pattern is the same. The door and window frame colors have changed. But the biggest change is the sign.

Photo of sign on Main Street Station, circa 1956
Sign on Main Street Station, circa 1956

This old picture shows that Disneyland had reached a milestone of attendance—5 million guests—shown as “population 5,000,000.” The prominent Santa Fe logo reminds us that this is the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad.

Photo of sign on Main Street Station, 2005
Sign on Main Street Station, 2005

In January 2004, Disneyland achieved a much greater milestone of attendance—500 million guests since opening day in 1955. During the “Happiest Homecoming on Earth” celebration, Main Street Station proudly proclaimed, “population 500,000,000.”

Photo of City Hall, circa 1956
City Hall, circa 1956

Disneyland’s City Hall of reminiscent of county courthouses and other government buildings in towns throughout America, especially the old Larimer County Courthouse in Colorado. The tall trees appear to be a eucalyptus windbreak, saved from when the site of Disneyland had been orange groves a few years earlier. But the most interesting thing about this old picture isn’t City Hall itself; it’s how Disneyland guests dressed for a day at the park. Gentlemen wore collared shirts. Ladies wore dresses.

Photo of City Hall, 2006
City Hall, 2006

A half century later, City Hall still looks good. In this 2006 photo, the central tower is adorned with an emblem from the “Happiest Homecoming on Earth.” The big difference between the older picture and the new picture is that the landscaping trees have grown. Oh, how they’ve grown! In fact, throughout Disneyland, towering trees are a mixed blessing. Trees are wonderful, but as they grow, they change the careful scale of buildings and other manmade structures (including manmade mountains).

Photo of the Golden Horseshoe, circa 1956
Golden Horseshoe, circa 1956

Slue Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe, an old Western saloon that never served alcohol, has been a fixture of Frontierland since opening day. Guests would line up outside for the Golden Horseshoe Revue, an old-fashioned Western saloon show with hostess Slue Foot Sue, a live band, an Irish tenor, a travelling salesman (usually played by the very funny Wally Boag), and can-can dancers. Somebody called it family girlie show, and that’s a good description. Again, take a look at how the guests in line are dressed.

Photo of the Golden Horseshoe, 2004
Golden Horseshoe, 2004

Arguably, the Golden Horseshoe looks better now than it did in its early years. The biggest and most obvious improvement is the ornate sign that replaced the Pepsi-Cola banner, but the whole building is more richly detailed. Unfortunately, the Golden Horseshoe Revue is history, having ended its incredibly long run in October 1986. Another live variety show, the Golden Horseshoe Jamboree, ran from 1986 to 1994. Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, a very entertaining comic bluegrass band, now perform daily at the Golden Horseshoe. It may not be the old Revue, but at least it’s a live performance.


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© 2007-2010 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated February 12, 2010.

Photo of Main Street Station, circa 1956: by Frank T. Taylor, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of Main Street Station, 2005: 2005 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of sign on Main Street Station, circa 1956: by Frank T. Taylor, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of sign on Main Street Station, 2005: 2005 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of City Hall, circa 1956: by Frank T. Taylor, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of City Hall, 2006: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Golden Horseshoe, circa 1956: by Frank T. Taylor, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of Golden Horseshoe, 2004: 2004 by Werner Weiss.