Marion Pellicano Ambrose
Walt’s dream of Disney World began long before 1971. Early in 1959, he began searching for a location on the east coast to build the amazing theme park he envisioned. Walt Disney flew over the Orlando site in November of 1963. Seeing the well-developed network of roads, including the planned Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike, with McCoy Air Force Base (later Orlando International Airport) to the east, Disney selected a centrally-located site near Bay Lake.
To avoid a burst of land speculation, Disney used various dummy corporations to acquire 27,443 acres of land. In May 1965, some of these major land transactions were recorded a few miles southwest of Orlando in Osceola County. Also, two large tracts totaling $1.5 million were sold, and smaller tracts of flatlands and cattle pastures were purchased by exotic-sounding companies such as the Latin-American Development and Management Corporation and the Reedy Creek Ranch Corporation, Retlaw (Walter backwards) and Ayefor (I-4).Some of these names are now memorialized on a window above Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom. On October 20, 1965, Walt held a press conference announcing to the world his dream for his new “Florida Project” –Walt Disney World!
Walt died in 1966, before his dream was fully realized, but his brother and partner, Roy Disney promised Walt on his death bed, that he would see the project through. And the rest is history!
“My only hope is that we never lose sight of one thing, that it was all started by a mouse.”- Walt Disney