Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa officially opened May 17, 2004 with a “health-history-horses” theme. The Development Manager for the project was Kevin Cummings which was ironically appropriate.
Cummings was born and raised in Saratoga Springs, New York, the city that was the inspiration for the new Disney Vacation Club resort. In fact, at the time, his twin brother still lived in that historic upstate New York town so Kevin would go back to visit several times during the year, especially to attend the races.
In his role as a Development Manager, Kevin oversaw the hiring of the project's design professionals, from the design architect to the working architect, to all the engineers.
"I coordinate them as a team to come up with the design for our project," he told me when the resort first opened.
As soon as Kevin heard that the new resort was to be inspired by the tranquil towns of upstate New York in the 1800s, he told everyone, "It's got to be Saratoga! We took trips up there to look at the architecture, and I'd show my friends around since I knew the lay of the land. I knew exactly where to look, where the best architecture was"North Broadway, Union Avenue, and all the special buildings that we took bits and pieces of our design from for the resort."
Working with Boston-based Graham Gund Architects (who had worked on Disney's Vero Beach Resort, the Celebration Hotel in Celebration, Florida, and Disney's Coronado Springs Resort), the team, according to Kevin, "went up and down the East Coast looking for different elements to be put to use for our buildings. Of course, the major part of the architecture is based on Saratoga. But we were very careful to use actual design elements"it's really real, what you're seeing, we didn't make this stuff up.
"Of course, I knew the history from growing up and going to school there, the local history, and the history of the racecourse. It's not a racetrack "it's a racecourse" the oldest racecourse in the United States, going all the way back to 1863. In the 1920s and '30s, especially, Saratoga was the place for the upper class to summer, and they all went during the racing season. It was known as the ‘August place’. Saratoga Springs used to have more hotel rooms than any other U.S. destination."
Kevin helped develop a binder filled with photos from the research trips so that the smallest details like the awnings would be accurate.
Kevin was also instrumental in naming many of the features like the High Rock Spring Pool after one of the actual “healing springs” found in the city and frequented by celebrities like U.S. Presidents.
Street names such as Union Avenue and Broadway will also be familiar with people who know Saratoga Springs. Kevin wanted to see the name of the street he grew up on included, but it didn't make the cut.
What most reminded Kevin of his hometown were the three towers. "We have three different building types, and we have three different tower designs on the Guest room buildings. They're right at the entrances, and they rise 70 feet into the air"those elements really strike you. You'll see them all over Saratoga, even the colors. The blues, greens, reds, and yellows we used to paint the buildings"the greatest homes in Saratoga Springs have those colors. That's what really hit me"the colors of the buildings...and the towers. No doubt about it."
Having a reference to Saratoga Springs on WDW property is nothing new.
Since the opening of Walt Disney World in October 1971, there has been a major architectural reference to Saratoga Springs, New York in the Magic Kingdom. The majestic train station is an adaptation of one that was in that city at the turn of the century and has greeted Disney theme park guests for over forty years to remind them they are on the East Coast.
RELATED INFORMATION AND LINKS
Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.
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Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.
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