By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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A Friday Visit With Jim Korkis: Peter Dominick, Jr. and the Wilderness Lodge

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

Peter Dominick and the Wilderness Lodge--A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis from yourfirstvisit.netHundreds of thousands of people have contributed to the magic of Walt Disney World over the last four decades.

Most of their contributions are anonymous, a tradition started by Walt Disney himself in order to reinforce the “Disney” brand.

However, during the era of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, noted architects were recruited and publicized.

They expanded the vision of Walt Disney World and were given prominent recognition in all the publicity associated with their buildings.

“In our architecture, Disney continues to produce the kind of groundbreaking entertainment that keeps the Disney name magical to people around the world. Our architecture is part of the show,” said Eisner in August 1992 at the ground-breaking ceremony for Disney’s Wilderness Lodge resort.

Peter Dominick and Disney's Wilderness Lodge--A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis from

Peter Dominick Jr., who headed the Urban Design Group of Denver, Colorado and was an avid outdoorsman, had been commissioned to design the upscale Wilderness Lodge resort near the Magic Kingdom.

Dominick was well known for having a great passion and understanding of the building traditions of the Rocky Mountain West.

As part of their research for the Disney resort, Dominick and members of the Disney Development Company visited lodges at Yosemite, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

Dominick’s primary inspirations for the Wilderness Lodge were clearly the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone Natural Park and the Awahwanee Lodge in Yosemite National Park that are referenced in the final design.

“(Disney’s Wilderness Lodge) does, in fact, capture the spirit and sense of place one associates with our National Parks, icons of our American heritage …with their art, architecture and dramatic landscapes,” stated Dominick.

“There are romantic and endearing qualities associated with the early national parks movement—the Northwest, the Native Americans, the great lodges. All of these elements have been combined in wonderful detail, creating a unique wilderness experience.”

Dominick was inspired by Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, who insisted on using whatever building materials were indigenous to an area in building a hotel so that it blends all aspects together and becomes more organic to the setting.

This style was known as “rustic architecture”. The concept was that art, architecture and landscape should be fully integrated in the design and construction of the building.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge from

Dominick set out to create a log hotel from the early 1900s in the Northwest Rockies incorporating authentic Native American elements, natural lightning and wherever possible traditional building materials like natural limestone.

Eighty-five loads of lodgepole pines were harvested from “standing dead forests” (meaning the trees had been killed from a natural cause, like insects) in Oregon and Montana to build the resort. No living trees were chopped down to create the lodgepoles. Stretched end to end, they would be forty miles long.

The wood floor in the lobby is composed of Brazilian cherry, white oak, bird’s eye maple, and burl walnut.

Only the rockwork is fabricated, using gunite. Real rocks were used to create molds for cement that was later spray painted to look like granite or sandstone. So don’t take it for “granite”.

Dominick’s work on the Wilderness Lodge was so well received by guests and critics that he went on to also design the Animal Kingdom Lodge at WDW and The Grand Californian in Anaheim for the Disney Company. Dominick passed away at the age of 67 in 2009.

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Thanks, Jim! And for more on Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and its theming, see this.

Come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis! In the meantime, check out his books, including The Vault of WaltWho’s Afraid of the Song of the South?, and The Book of Mouse, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.


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