Space later became:
Amateur Athletic Union
Building still exists
Bibliography: WDW Publicity Dept. Press Releases,
Osceola Sentinel January 16, 1970,
magazine February 1970
Walt Disney World - The First Decade, 1981
All images copyright
The Walt Disney Company.
Text 2009 by
Last Update to this page: July 21, 2009 (expanded text and images, video embedded)
In mid-January, 1970, the Walt Disney World Preview
Center became the first building on WDW property to be opened to the
public. Near the intersection of Interstate 4 and State Road 535,
the thoroughly modern glass, concrete and steel structure was situated on
the southern shoreline of Lake Buena Vista along the then-quiet Preview
Boulevard. This roadway would later become Hotel Plaza Boulevard, a
main artery serving traffic to the WDW Village and a gathering of
Inside the building, a small army of "lovely
young hostesses" treated guests to a
glimpse of what they could expect to see in the fall of 1971, when the $300
million Phase One of
the "Vacation Kingdom of the World" debuted. The Preview Center was open
daily from 9am to 5pm, and offered visitors a leisurely tour of artists'
renderings, an aerial view of Phase One in the form of a huge model and a
motion-picture presentation that forecast what the first five years of the
project would entail. Visitors could also make reservations for a stay at
one of WDW's first two hotels, the Contemporary and the Polynesian Village, or
purchase souvenirs at WDW's first gift counter.
Fourteen women were selected as the original representatives of Walt Disney
World. They came from a pool of 400 applicants who were evaluated by two
Disneyland hostesses, Valerie Watson and Holly Hoelscher, and chosen largely on
the basis of appearance. "We looked for that fresh, natural appearance
that our organization tries to reflect," Watson told Orlando-Land editor Edward
L. Prizer in 1970.
The Preview Center officially opened on January 16, but spent the week prior
hosting state and local government and business figures by invitation only.
When it opened to the public, it hosted 12,000 visitors in three days - twice as
many as Disney had expected. Every fifteen minutes, visitors were escorted
into a theater to see the film and 625-square foot model, portions of which
would be lit from overhead in synchronization with the film's dialogue.
1971's Project Florida, a 21-minute film that aired as part of The Wonderful World of
program, featured the Preview Center along with footage of construction
progress and attractions in development. A portion of that video is
When the rest of Walt Disney World opened to the public
in October 1971, the Preview
Center was closed. Most of the hostesses moved on to new jobs at other parts of
WDW. One of them, Debbie Dane, had by that time already been chosen as Walt
Disney World's first ambassador.
the Preview Center building still exists and looks little changed from the
outside, all of its wonderful interior elements have completely given way
to the annoying forward march of time. Since 1971, it has been
used for a large number of lesser purposes, for many years it was known as
the Reception Center, housed a post office and most recently served as
headquarters for an amateur athletic union. But in a way it's nice
that you can still drive into the same parking lot that met the very first
WDW visitors and, suspending disbelief, imagine that this building is all
that exists - the first little breath in a big balloon that would soon
burst into pop culture history.