Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.
“NEW” OLD DISCOVERIES AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE
By Jim Korkis
I have written on yourfirstvisit.net about the Wilderness Lodge several times [links to Jim’s earlier posts are at the bottom of the page–Dave], and revealed many of the “secrets” behind its details and storytelling. However, in November I did a presentation there for a group of amateur photographers, and when I went to explore the area in advance of that event, I stumbled across some other interesting things that I previously missed.
Outside, the Wilderness Lodge flies five flags just as does its inspiration, the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone. However, the flags at Wilderness Lodge have a Disney twist. Facing the building and looking left to right, the flags are the Wilderness Lodge flag, the Florida State flag, the American flag, the Disney Mickey Mouse flag and finally the Disney Vacation Club flag.
One of my favorite items in the lobby is hanging in a case by the elevators. It is the authentic Elk Tooth Dress worn by a Plains tribeswoman around 1875. It has been attributed to both Kiowa and Arapaho tribes and was worn for special ceremonies like a wedding.
The Elk teeth are a sign of wealth and usually an indication that it was the property of a great hunter….because elk only have two teeth. This time I actually stopped to count the teeth. This particular dress has 161 teeth arranged in five almost even rows. Some rows have 32 while others have 31 or 33.
The Territory Lounge is devoted to the early explorers of the West, which is why on the ceiling is painted a map of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition. In the glass cases are authentic artifacts from the 1800s. On the walls are a 34 star American flag from 1861 which explains why it is a bit tattered and an actual Wyoming State flag from 1890 that features an image of a white buffalo.
The paintings in the room are “inspired by Carl Clemens Runcius (1869-1959)”, a renowned wildlife artist who started painting animals in Wyoming in 1895.
I’ve written before about the totem poles in the lobby and shared the complete stories that are being told but I never stopped to read the plaques on the floor in front of both poles.
I have not found these short explanations recorded on the internet, nor any photos of the plaques. So in the interest of documenting things that haven’t been showcased, here are those descriptions:
“The Raven Pole (located next to the Whispering Canyon restaurant that these days is a lot quieter than it used to be), like all totem poles should be read from bottom to top. It includes Whale, Cougar, Wren, the bear cub twins, Dolphin and Salmon and culminates with the story of Raven pulling the sun, moon and stars from a box to light the darkened world. The figures on this pole are common to many tribes of the great Northwest.”
“The Eagle Pole, like all totem poles should be read from the bottom to the top. It includes Bear Chief, Frog, Bear Cub, Mountain Goat, Mouse Woman, Raven and Beaver. Eagle, who is a helper to all humans and animals perches on top. He is aided by three watchmen, known as Taan-skeel, who keep their eyes open day and night protecting the village. The figures on this pole are common to many tribes of the great Northwest.”
Of course, I love the Grand Canyon fireplace which was inspired by a much smaller real one at the Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon. Some Disney fans know that to the right of the fireplace is a display case that states:
“This 82’ tall pinnacle captures the color, lithographic proportions and fossil life found in the walls of the Grand Canyon. Follow the displays at each floor level to gain a greater insight into the Canyon’s formations and the history of life on earth. The fossils represented in these displays are not taken directly from the Grand Canyon but are of the same genera and therefore represent an accurate paleontological comparison.”
Here’s more of Jim’s posts on Disney’s Wilderness Lodge:
- Peter Dominick
- Treasures of the Wilderness Lodge
- The Fireplace of the Wilderness Lodge
- The Headdresses of the Wilderness Lodge
- Wilderness Lodge Sculptor William Robertson
- The Copper Creek Villas and Cabins
And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!
In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, The Vault of Walt Volume 7: Christmas Edition, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.