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Fridays with Jim Korkis: Columbia Harbour House

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

The Columbia Harbour House is themed as a New England tavern of the Colonial time period. During the American Revolutionary War, the proprietor of the Harbour House was Harold Stalmaster while the innkeeper was a woman named Priscilla “Cilla” Lapham.

Around 2011, crates were added to Liberty Square addressed to different residents of the locale. Harold Stalmaster is a reference to actor Hal Stalmaster who portrayed in the role of Johnny Tremain in the 1957 Disney live action film Johnny Tremain based on the novel of Revolutionary War characters. Another crate is addressed to innkeeper Pricilla Lapham, who was Johnny’s love interest in the story.

(c) Disney

Located between Fantasyland and Liberty Square, the counter service restaurant has two entrances. The Fantasyland side represents a dock in England (since it is just below the Peter Pan’s Flight attraction) set at a time when most people were illiterate, so the sign just features a chicken and fish to indicate what was served inside the restaurant, much like English pubs of the time would have images on signage to identify them.

The Liberty Square side represents a port in New England and the sign spells out the name with the British “u” included in “Harbour”. Instead of images of a chicken and fish, since this is a later time period in the New World when many people could read, it features the American bald eagle first designed in 1776.

Looking closely at the eagle, the thirteen arrows representing the original colonies are in its right claw signifying “war”. The back of today’s dollar bill has the arrows in its left claw, and an olive branch in the right one signifying “peace”.

Based on concept sketches by Imagineer Dorothea Redmond, The Harbour House didn’t open until Summer 1972, along with Olde World Antiques, the Perfume shop, and the Heritage House. In early planning and maps it was designated as the Nantucket Harbor House and even sometimes as New Bedford and Montauk Point.

By the time it opened, it was officially the Columbia Harbour House because there were plans for the Sailing Ship Columbia to ply the waters of the Rivers of America, like at Disneyland. In 1787, when the Constitution was ratified as is referenced in the number of the building that houses the Hall of Presidents, the Columbia became the first American sailing ship to circumnavigate the globe.

Columbia Harbour House is one of the largest restaurants at the Magic Kingdom, but seems more intimate with its low ceilings and small dining areas named after port towns: Charleston, Cape Hatteras, Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis, Long Island, Cape Cod, Portsmouth, New London, Newport, Marblehead, Salem and Plymouth.

One of the second floor rooms, by a window overlooking the Haunted Mansion, is themed to the paintings of ghost ships like The Flying Dutchman. There is also a map from the National Geographic magazine that is framed and marks the locations of 500 ships that were lost on the U.S. coastline between Virginia and North Carolina.

The Harbour House is decorated with nautical artwork and paraphernalia such as an antique scuba helmet, scrimshaw, mermaid figureheads from ships, model ships, nautical paintings, chandeliers made from helms, maps of the ocean, helms mounted on the walls, and charts, among other clever details. One of the paintings in the restaurant is a recreation of a painting from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).

For the first two decades the restaurant was open there was second separate serving area upstairs with its own kitchen. In the 1990s this was closed and walled up.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt: Volume 10: Final Edition  Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.


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