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Jim's Attic: The History Behind the Saratoga Springs DVC Resort

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Jim Korkis: The History Behind the Saratoga Springs

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.

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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."

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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

Saratoga Springs Fact Sheet

Saratoga Springs Videos

In-Depth Look at Saratoga Springs - Three Part Blogs

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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Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim KorkisABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com: The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse

Who's Afraid of the Song of the South AND
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


The previous post in this blog was The Fort Wilderness Book.

The next post in this blog is From the Tickle Trunk – Walt Disney World News 1981.

Comments (7)

Mackenzie:

What a cool story! I stayed at Saratoga Springs a few years ago and just LOVED the whole place, and now I know why! I knew it was based on Saratoga in New York, but I really think you can see and feel that personal touch from a Development Manager who really loved the place and the inspiration.

Susan:

Jim, I always enjoy your posts!

Kathy Hall:

Hi, Jim,
As we know, the Saratoga Springs resort rests on the property that the Disney Institute resort once occupied. Known as an "adult summer camp," the DI offered classes and activities that appealed to older children and adults. The best offering was the Animation Event, which I attended in 1999 and 2000. Have you ever written about DI and/or the Animation Event? If not, please consider sharing your knowledge and impressions of this unique experience.
Thanks!
Kathy

Kevin McCloud:

Hi Jim. I enjoyed your report. I love Saratoga Springs. It's one of my home resorts being a DVC Member.

Judy price:

The colors and shapes of this resort are very beautiful. It gives a calm effect. As a resort patron, here are my top three wishes for Saratoga Springs-a high speed bullet train that could get you to all parks in ten minutes or less. More counter service restaurants throughout since this resort is huge( think Captain crooks at Polynesian) and finally re route those fast moving golf carts ! When walking to food court you could get run over! Jim, I know you write about historical references and inform us of little known facts. Practically speaking , I feel bad this is the last resort resort. Time is precious when you are visiting WDW, and long bus rides produce anxiety !!

Tammy:

Jim,

I'm sorry to disappoint but I have lived just outside of Saratoga Springs NY all my life and I see very little resemblance at all to the real thing. Saratoga is known for its quaint Victorian charm and a small town set in a city were you can stroll the streets and take it all in. I love Saratoga Springs and think Disney's version is awful, it looks like any other DVC with a few horse statues stuck in it. Where is the Victorian charm and the Adirondack influence? I enjoy walking the streets of Saratoga every summer and I never see these color buildings. I think more than just the name of the street he used to live on didn't make the cut.

Jon:

I haven't visited the real Saratoga Springs so I can't comment as accurately as Tammy did but I have to agree with her on the charm of Disney's Saratoga. I stayed there a few years ago as it was a good price and wasn't that impressed. The whole resort felt sort of cold and I didn't really get the theme at all. Much preferred my stay at Port Orleans!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 2, 2014 9:09 AM.

The previous post in this blog was The Fort Wilderness Book.

The next post in this blog is From the Tickle Trunk – Walt Disney World News 1981.

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