Disney History - Wurlitzer Music Hall
Did you know that Disneyland had a piano and organ shop on Main Street, U.S.A. from 1955 to 1968? The Wurlitzer Music Hall was a large shop on the south east corner of Main Street that displayed pianos and organs. Guests were also treated to daily concerts inside.
The Randolph Wurlitzer Company, commonly referred to as just Wurlitzer, was a musical instrument manufacturer founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1853. The company was well know for its entry level pianos. As part of its relationship with Disneyland, it provided all pianos and organs throughout the park, including the organ on King Arthur’s Carousel. Wurlitzer included its status as the exclusive provider of pianos and organs at Disneyland in its advertisements.
Don Beamsley was hired in 1955 one of the pianists who would perform the daily concerts at the Wurlitzer shop. He previously played the piano and cello with the Warner Bros. Studio orchestra. In addition to playing at the Wurlitzer shop, Beamsley occasionally played the piano at the Golden Horseshoe Revue. In 1966, Beamsley left his job at Disneyland to become the organist at Dodger Stadium.
In 1968, the Wurlitzer company would end its relationship with Disneyland and the shop closed its doors for the final time in September.
Disney History - Upjohn Pharmacy
Did you know when Disneyland first opened there was a pharmacy on Main Street? Upjohn Pharmacy was located at the end of Main Street near the Penny Arcade. Of course, it wasn’t an operating pharmacy but rather a showcase of turn-of-the-century pharmacies and the history of medicine. Though they did hand out free mini bottles of Unicap vitamins, as you can see in the photo below.
Originally, nearly all of the Main Street shops and most of the restaurants throughout the park were operated be lessees, not Disney. Walt Disney acknowledged when the park was being constructed that he didn’t have the time or expertise to run such establishments. Of course, that would certainly change as time went by. Being a landlord didn’t suit Walt, who quickly grew frustrated when the lessees operated with inconsistent store hours. The effort put forth by many of the lessees was initially dampened by the fact many did not expect the park to survive for very long.
Disney History - Town Square
Town Square is the heart of Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. Just like the turn of the century towns that it is based on, it serves as the meeting place and center of the area. Originally, the bandstand was to be here, but once in place, Walt saw that it blocked the view of the Castle and messed with the forced scale and perspective. What you will find in Town Square is The Train Station, The Opera House (home of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln), City Hall, and The Fire Department. At one time, you could even bank in Town Square, thanks to the Bank of America. The Disney Gallery has replaced the bank, and the old vault now holds artistic collectibles that guests can blow their paychecks on. Every day, guests can catch the patriotic flag lowering ceremony that is held here.
The Indians were made out of fiberglass from a mold. Indian Joe was originally supposed to look like a carved Cigar Store Indian from the Victorian era. The Frontierland carved Indian Chief has a brown cape, while the Main Street Indian Chief has a teal green cape. Because of the natural wear and tear of fiberglass both chiefs are usually replaced every 5-7 years.
Cigar Store Indians are a form of American Folk Art dating back to the 1800s. They were commonly placed on the walk in front of tobacconist shops to direct illiterate customers to the shop. Since there were so many immigrants who couldn't read English, it was common to use visual trade signs such as a carving instead of written signs to bridge the language barrier.
*Note the Elvis pumpkin on the 20th Century Music Company sign behind Joe.
The Main Street Arcade Orchestrion
Fans of the Main Street Arcade are familiar with its Welte Orchestrion – the large self-playing pipe organ that has entertained guests for decades.
Since 1945 – thirty years after the instrument was first built – those working to repair and restore the Orchestrion have signed their names to an interior panel, and the tradition has continued to this day.
The instrument still has it original acoustics and pipes, but the team is working to restore it to as close as possible to original condition. It will feature more of the original music that it was first designed to play.
Be sure to check out the Welte Orchestrion in its full glory in the Penny Arcade on Main Street.
Growing up in Los Angeles in the 70s/80s we visited Disneyland on a regular basis and often after school, before "Annual Passes".