What inspired Main Street USA?

Marcelline, Missouri or Fort Collins, Colorado?


What inspired Main Street USA? Marcelline, Missouri or Fort Collins, Colorado?

During early planning stages for Disneyland, Walt Disney asked Disney set designer, Harper Goff to start designing the "look" of Disneyland. Walt wanted a hometown feel to his Main Street area, thus setting the tone for his entire park. Walt remembered his early days growing up in Marceline, Missouri and wanted that sort of a feel for it; however he had hired a man who grew up in a small town too. That town was Fort Collins, Colorado.

Ralph Harper Goff was born on March 16, 1911 in Fort Collins, Colorado. His father, Ralph Algine Goff owned the local newspaper, the Fort Collins Express Courier. He later moved to Santa Ana and attended Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, California. For many years, he worked as an illustrator for Colliers Magazine, Esquire and National Geographic Magazine. During World War II, he was asked by the US Army to develop  camouflage paint color schemes and was later transferred to the US Navy to develop ways of changing ship silhouettes to confuse the enemy.

After the war, he began working at Warner Brothers Studios working on film such as Sargeant York, Charge of the Light Brigade and Captain Blood. 1951 Goff was in London and stopped at a Hobby Shoppe to purchase an antique steam engine. Also there to purchase the same engine was Walt Disney. The two shared a love of miniature trains and Goff was soon working at Walt Disney Studios.

One of his first assignments was to design a layout and sets for a new theme park Walt was planning to build on some land across the street from his studio in Burbank.  This new attraction was to be called Mickey Mouse Park. As we now know, this park was never built, but it prepared the team for the next big plan.... DISNEYLAND!

When Walt asked him to design Main Street USA, he wanted it to look like an average American main street at the turn of the century. Walt suggested his childhood hometown of Marceline, Missouri as an example, but Harper decided instead to use some examples from his own birthplace in Fort Collins, Colorado. As well as designing the look of Main Street, he also designed the Jungle Cruise and the Golden Horseshoe Saloon [based on the set design of a recently produced movie called Calamity Jane].

Goff was a member of the Firehouse Five Plus Two playing banjo and went on to work on other movie projects for both the Walt Disney Studios and other studios as well. He was named a Disney Legend after he passed in 1993. Harper Goff passed away on March 3, 1993 in Palm Springs, California and is buried near his parents on Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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Below are some pictures of a trip I took to Fort Collins, as well as pictures of Disneyland and Marceline in comparison. 

Let's compare these three locations:

Fort Collins, Colorado


 One of the main streets of Fort Collins, Colorado as it appeared in 2015.  

Disneyland, USA


 Main Street USA in Disneyland.   

Marceline, Missouri


 A turn of the century main street 

in Marceline, Missouri as Walt would have seen it.

Shopping in Fort Collins


One of the many buildings of Fort Collins, Colorado that might have influenced the Emporium that Harper Goff designed.

Shopping in Disneyland


Disneyland's Emporium on Main Street USA in Disneyland. Notice the powers and turrets.

Shopping in Marceline


A Main Street Emporium in Marceline, Missouri  (real life now imitates art instead of the reverse.)

Every town needs a clock in town square!


 A street clock in Fort Collins, Colorado as it appeared in 2013.  


A street clock on Main Street USA
in Disneyland.


 A street clock in Marceline, Missouri . 

Fort Collins Train Station


The Train Station in Fort Collins, Colorado as it appeared in 2013. In 1904 (Walt's birth year), the Colorado Central Railroad ran through Fort Collins, as well as the GSL&P [Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific], all of which were subsidiaries of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Disneyland Train Station


This Train Station in New Orleans Square in Disneyland was originally the Frontierland Station. Originally called the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad from July 17, 1955 until September 30, 1974 when the ATSP [Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe] sponsorship ended.

Marceline Train Station


The Train Station in Marceline, Missouri around the turn in the century, which was served bu both the ATSF [Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe] and the BNSF [Burlington Northern and Santa Fe]

The red brick paved street of the 1900's....

Good Red Georgia Clay bricks...


 Before the late 19th and early 20th century, most streets were made out of dirt and gravel. Mordecai Levi of Charleston, West Virginia obtained the first patent for paving brick roads in 1870. Shortly thereafter, thousands of brick making companies opened their doors to keep up with the new demand for covering streets all across America . 

 The first red brick street was built near the Northern Pacific Railway Depot as padding around the tracks for the pedestrians. Growing interest  led others to want this cleaner way of moving about the towns and cities.  

The advantages of red brick street were that they lasted longer than other types of road material. They were cleaner and easier to install.


Streets of Fort Collins


 The brick streets and original trolley lines in Fort Collins, Colorado .

Streets of Disneyland


  The horse drawn streetcars on Main Street. with the brick sidewalks behind and the trolley tracks in the foreground. 

Streets of Marceline


  The brick sidewalks and rails at the train station in Marceline, Missouri around the turn in the century. 

Lamp Posts in Fort Collins


 An iron lamp post in Fort Collins, Colorado .

Lamp Posts in Disneyland


An iron lamp post on Main Street during the holiday season several years ago.

Lamp Posts in Marceline


An iron lamp post in Marceline, Missouri.