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: Downtown Disney

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

Jim Korkis on the History of Downtown Disney from yourfirstvisit.netThe Downtown Disney area used to be very much different than what it is today and even more different than what will become Disney Springs, with its new eateries, shops and parking garages.

Walt Disney World actually has two small communities on property, Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake, as a way—along with the Reedy Creek Improvement District—for it to control rules and regulations affecting its property.

The former Blake Lake was renamed Lake Buena Vista in 1969 with incorporation of that town of the same name just up the street. (This lake still borders the Preview Center building, which is now the home of the Amateur Athletic Union on Hotel Plaza Boulevard.)

The name Buena Vista was chosen for its Disney connection not only to the name of the film distribution company that released the Disney films but also the name of the street in Burbank where the Disney Studios and corporate offices are located. Buena Vista is Spanish for “good view.”

The canal system here was widened into a large lake, called the Village Lagoon, and in 1974, just a few years after the opening of the Magic Kingdom, the Disney Company built in the area a collection of vacation villas, treehouse villas, and a golf course that became the Disney Village Resort.

Jim Korkis on Downtown Disney from

The area would later evolve into the Disney Institute and now the Disney Vacation Club’s Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.

Right across the Village Lagoon from the Disney Village Resort was a small shopping area.

When it opened on March 22, 1975, The Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village was immediately popular with guests, locals and business people as a location where they could purchase Disney merchandise and enjoy the Disney magic and quality service without having to pay to get into the Magic Kingdom or stay at one of the Disney resorts.

It was a quiet, soothing small-town atmosphere where visitors could leisurely dine and shop and be entertained. It was a charming retail community surrounding the lake with a barber, post office, art gallery, pottery shop, candle shop, and pharmacy, as well as other simple businesses.

Eventually it was renamed the Disney Village Marketplace and then it became the Downtown Disney Marketplace with the 1989 adjacent expansion into Pleasure Island, a location that mimicked the popular downtown Orlando Church Street where themed restaurants and clubs operated.

The Pleasure Island area has since been shut down, and is now being transformed as part of the redevelopment of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs.

The original Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village had four places to eat: Lite Bite, Heidelberger’s Deli, The Village Restaurant and Cap’n Jack’s (named after Disney Legend Jack Olsen who had a fondness for sailing and fishing and was instrumental in the development of Disney theme park merchandise beginning with Disneyland in 1955). All of these locations no longer exist.

Guests could also take a boat from Cruise Dock West to the Lake Buena Vista Club, where they could enjoy breakfast, lunch, and brunch, as well as French cooking at night.

Downtown Disney Parking Garage Construction from

The Downtown Disney area was meant to be a quiet friendly oasis in the hectic and sometimes chaotic world of Disney. However, today it is as active and often as crowded as any of the WDW theme parks–and under extensive construction.

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Thanks, Jim!

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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1 Brenda Kenworthy { 06.12.15 at 8:59 am }

Thank you for the post. Every time I see anything involving Jim Korkis I read it. I have such a great respect and appreciation for this man and for his knowledge of all things Disney. What a gift!! Thank you again!

2 Dave { 06.13.15 at 8:06 am }

Thanks, Brenda!!

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