7 Things You May Not Know About the Hall of Presidents
1. Ambitious Origins
The Hall of Presidents was originally conceived as part of the Main Street expansion in Disneyland that was announced in 1958, which was to feature two new areas including Edison Square and Liberty Street. The original concept of The Hall of Presidents was a presentation that told the story of the American Revolution. The centerpiece of the show was to be a theater presentation introducing all the United States presidents depicted as life-size Audio-Animatronic figures. Unfortunately, the available technology was simply not good enough to bring this vision to life.
2. Mr. Lincoln
Instead, Imagineers concentrated on building a prototype figure, that of Abraham Lincoln, for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. The fair presented an opportunity to showcase this new technology, and the attraction entitled Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln proved to be a resounding success. The attraction was recreated in 1965 for Disneyland, and with renewed confidence the Hall of Presidents was put back on the drawing board as one of the opening day Magic Kingdom attractions.
3. Historical Inspiration
The building itself is an homage to the Federal-style civic buildings of Philadelphia.
4. A Presidential Museum
Inside the lobby, you’ll find a large display of presidential memorabilia – from the likes of Gerald Ford, Franklin Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and George Washington. You’ll also find a display case filled with dresses and personal objects worn by several first ladies, including Edith Roosevelt (wife of Theodore Roosevelt), Elizabeth Monroe, and Nancy Reagan.
5. Two If By Sea
On the Haunted Mansion side of the Hall of Presidents, you’ll find a second story window with two lanterns. That’s a reference to the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” which includes the famous stanza, “He said to his friend, “If the British march / By land or sea from the town to-night, / Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch / Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light, / One if by land, and two if by sea; / And I on the opposite shore will be, / Ready to ride and spread the alarm / Through every Middlesex village and farm, / For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”
6. The Carpet in the Hall of Presidents…
There is a common myth that centers around the Great Seal that’s in the carpet in the entryway. Many people assume, and have written, that this is the Presidential Seal of the United States, and why not? This is the Hall of Presidents after all! But what you actually see on the floor is the Great Seal of the United States, not the Presidential Seal. Admittedly, the two are very similar, but they are subtly different.
7. …And the Act of Congress That Allows it to Be Displayed
But wait, there’s more to the story. It is commonly stated that Disney had to obtain a special Act of Congress (or simply “special permission,” depending on which version of the story you hear), in order to put the Seal on display. An addendum to the story is that the Seal is only on display in two places in the United States, here at the Hall of Presidents, and at the Capital itself (or the White House, or Independence Hall…you get the idea). But is it true? A call to the Library of Congress turned up no documentation from Congress regarding the Seal at the Hall of Presidents, and the researcher we talked to was skeptical that any such permission would need to be obtained. A reading of the actual laws pertaining to appropriate uses of the Seal doesn’t shed much light on the subject, as they are varied and vague (and don’t address this question specifically). This legend is so persistent that Cast Members routinely tell the tale to Guests as they wait for the next show to begin in the theater. It may very well be true, but in the course of researching the tale we have yet to find any actual documentation that any such permission was obtained or necessary. We’re not quite prepared to say this one isn’t true, so if any of our readers have information on this we invite you to share it with us. After all, it does make for a good story!