Saturday, April 29, 2017

35 NEVER BEFORE SEEN Photos of New Orleans Square Construction

By Alejandro Meza

Every so often something extremely magical pops up from Disney history. Today is one of those days. You are about to see an extraordinary find of never-before-seen photos featuring the construction of New Orleans Square found at an estate sale for the late Imagineering legend, Bill Martin. Join us in today's new article as you learn the story of how these amazing photos were found and you will also want to prepare your eyes to see New Orleans Square as Walt once did with these 35 never-before-seen construction photos...

(Editor's Note: We would like to thank Alejandro Meza for allowing Disney Avenue to share these truly remarkable photos of New Orleans Square's construction. If you own special photos like these and would like to share them with other Disney fans around the world, please feel free to click the "Contact Us" tab above and drop us a line. Lastly, I highly recommend opening the Disney Avenue Music Player playlist at the top, right-hand corner of the page and choosing track number 179 titled "New Orleans Square Music Loop" to enjoy while you see these incredible photos if you are on a desktop computer. And now, here's Alejandro...)

My name is Alejandro “Alx” Meza and I would like to share an extraordinary discovery I made back in 2013. I was invited to attend an estate sale for the late Bill Martin, Imagineer & VP of WED (1971), with the hope of finding some unique Disney items and rare books. Upon arriving, I noticed that most of the Disney items had been separated and placed in glass cases where they were displayed along with a fixed price. Nothing out of the ordinary, as these type of estate sales tend to feature the more valuable pieces separately, leaving the rest of the items out in the open for people to peruse.

Imagineering legend and former VP of WED Enterprises, Bill Matin

Bill’s home was superb. A lot of vintage furniture and accessories made me think I was stepping onto a set of Mad Men. Very well preserved and cared for, you could tell that he enjoyed a fine livelihood there with his family.

After walking around his home I realized that most of the interesting items had already been purchased or separated in the glass displays. There was one coal bucket allegedly given to Bill by Walt Disney, but there was no way of authenticating this. Another item of interest was the framed portrait that was given to him when he retired. It has the signature of most Imagineers of his time and was still hanging above the fireplace.

The framed portrait of Bill Martin that was given to him when he retired signed by Imagineers of his era and that hung above his fireplace.

I was about to leave when I came across a stack of magazines in a hall closet. Expecting to find something of interest, I kneeled and went thru the stack. Too my surprise I found a deteriorating photo album that was essentially hidden between the magazines and didn’t appear all that impressive. That is until I flipped through the photo pages...

The album is a collection of Polaroids & Kodachrome Prints that captured the construction of New Orleans Square at Disneyland. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My heart raced as I viewed every photo, recognizing many of the familiar buildings in their unfinished state. At first I was uncertain that this was real (especially when the most valuable items were being sold separately), but once I saw additional photos from different areas of Disneyland I knew this was a rare find.

Most photos are in great shape for their age though some are adhered to the plastic album sleeve. I also noted some writing on the back of a few photos which appears to be catalogue numbers & locations where the photos wear taken. Below is a breakdown of the album content:

  • 7 pages of New Orleans Square Construction: 11 Polaroids & 59 prints.
  • 4 pages of Disneyland (various Park locations including the Hills Bros. Coffee House, Main Street, Jungle Cruise, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Club 33 double-doors without the “33”emblem: 42 prints total.

Research Photos:
  • 6 pages of New Orleans location photos: about 38 Polaroids & prints.
  • 4 pages of Williamsburg/Georgetown location photos: about 24 prints (leads me to believe these were research for Liberty Square at WDW).
  • 2 pages of Dallas/Houston location photos: 14 prints (a few building details and a shooting gallery).

In addition, other items I obtained from Bill Martin’s estate are a vintage Annin Defiance 50 star American Flag (apparently flown at Disneyland, but there is no way to prove that), and two books which may have inspired the New Orleans Square ambient:

Buccaneers and Pirates of our Coast by Franks R. Stockton (1898):

The French Quarter by Herbert Asbury (1938):

The books are in great shape despite their years and I did go through some of the pages to see if there were any annotations relating to the construction of New Orleans Square. I love knowing that these may have been read by Bill to get a sense of how to recreate the same French Quarter atmosphere at the Park. This feeds my inner Disney.

Walt and Bill Martin

I am happy to share a few photos from this album, but not all as it would take a considerably long time to capture these digitally. I’m avoiding scanning them as I fear the intense beam could bleach the photo. Still, I consider these the best images of the album that show the variety of construction stages of the different buildings in New Orleans Square. I hope you enjoy them...

French Market Entrance

French Market Interior

French Market

French Market

French Market

Front St. Hat Shop

New Orleans Square Railroad Station

Front St. / Orleans St. Hat Shop

Front St. Staircase

New Orleans Square Railroad Station


Cristal d'Orleans

Court Of Angels

Court Of Angels

Creole Cafe

Cristal d'Orleans

La Mascarade d'Orleans

Royal St. Antiques

Royal St. Antiques

Royal St. Blue Bayou, Club 33, Le Gourmet

Royal St. Blue Bayou, Club 33, Le Gourmet

Royal St. Blue Bayou and Creole Cafe

Blue Bayou and Pirates Arcade

Blue Bayou and the Pirates Of The Caribbean Exit

Creole Cafe

Royal St. Pirates Arcade

Pirates Arcade

Pirates Of The Caribbean Exit

Royal Courtyard

Royal St. Veranda

Royal St. Veranda

Royal St. Veranda, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Antiques, Creole Cafe

Royal St. Veranda, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Walt and Roy Disney's Family Apartment

Walt and Roy Disney's Family Apartment

Club 33 Entrance and Le Gourmet

If you would like to travel back to the opening of New Orleans Square and hear the rare recording of Walt Disney from that very day as he opens the first additional “land” to Disneyland, you can do so by clicking HERE. What a day that was...

“It was a gala day when we officially opened New Orleans Square,” Walt said. “We had a real jubilee, Southern style.” Here, Walt delivers a speech during the official dedication ceremonies on July 24, 1966.

“Our special guest was the mayor of the first New Orleans—Louisiana, that is,” Walt said, referring to Mayor Victor H. Schiro (pictured at the microphone). “After the usual dedication speeches, we presented his honor with a key to Disneyland’s New Orleans.” Also taking part in the historic day was 1966 Disneyland Ambassador Connie Swanson Lane (pictured to the Mayor’s left).

Walt and Mayor Schiro sample fragrances from Mlle. Antoinette’s Parfumerie.

“Flower marts—a tradition of New Orleans—add color to the streets and courtyards,” Walt said of New Orleans Square. Here, he points out details from the new area to Mayor Schiro. (A keen eye will spot Disneyland marketing director—and future Disneyland president—Jack Lindquist, fourth from left).

This aerial shot shows the park’s expansion in the 1960s—including the massive show building for Pirates of the Caribbean in the bottom-right corner (adjacent to Adventureland’s Jungle Cruise).

Now that we have seen the construction, let's join Walt in this Wonderful World of Color episode of "Disneyland Around the Seasons" where he takes us back to the opening of a brand new New Orleans Square. Keep in mind while watching this that it aired after Walt Disney's death, which occurred only three days earlier...

(For your viewing pleasure, be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player at the top, left-hand corner of the page prior to playing the video below if you are on a desktop computer.) 


2D Artist and Animator, Alejandro "Alx" Meza has been engaged in the Animation and Gaming Industry for the past 17 years, working on a variety of projects for Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Warner Bros and Zynga. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and 2 daughters, and are frequent visitors to the Disneyland Resort.


  1. Excellent find and so grateful that you would share your "greatest hits" with us. New Orleans Square is my favorite "land," yet there has not been much on it's making, so this is truly a fun flashback on it's evolution. Especially how the infill around the family initialed balcony crests was being handled in the field versus offsite. Also the apparent change from scored plaster to red brick on the Pirates Exit at Blue Bayou facade. Thank you and hope to see more perhaps.

    1. WOW! Eddie Sotto!!! Ed I am happy to see you follow Disney Avenue and would love to interview you for the Disney Avenue Podcast!! Perhaps we could set something up? My email is m. It would be an honor!!

    2. Glad that you enjoyed the photos Eddie. I'm exploring on having the photos captured digitally in a higher resolution, if only to have them archived in case they are lost or destroyed. Perhaps I can follow up with a "part II" soon. Still, it gives me great joy to share these with every Disneyland aficionado.

      And a huge thank you to Keith for giving me the opportunity to share on Disney Avenue!


    3. Most services these days will capture them via DSLR, rather than scanning. Much less invasive and safer for the originals.

    4. That's exactly how I captured these images Jon. Albeit, I could've used better lighting.

  2. AMAZING photos Alx... truly!! thank you for sharing!! Maybe some day when I have time, I'll help you clean up those photos.. Like i did shortly on the Vintage Disneyland FB page for you. - Dan Bejma (aka; imtigger or Gern Blandsten Jr)