Have you ever walked the streets of Old Town Fort Collins and thought to yourself, ‘why does this place seem so welcoming and familiar?’ Do you look at the architecture of the buildings, specifically the Old Firehouse Bookstore and think, ‘I know I have seen this somewhere?’ Don’t be alarmed, you aren’t experiencing Déjà vu. You are simply noticing the uncanny resemblance of Old Town Fort Collins and Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A.
There were two men involved with the creation and ideation of the Main Street U.S.A. design. One of those men happens to be one of the most recognized icons in US history, Walt Disney. The other man, Harper Goff, happens to be from the lovely town of Fort Collins.
Born in 1911, Goff was raised in Fort Collins by his father who owned the Fort Collins Express Courier newspaper. Goff, a Hollywood art director by trade, drew off his childhood memories of the buildings in Old Town Fort Collins when sketching up plans for Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. Buildings such as the aforementioned Firehouse Book Store, the Old Linden Hotel, the bank building and the city hall building, among others were used for inspiration.
Besides Fort Collins, the other inspiration for Main Street was Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Mo. Disney only lived in Marceline for the first five years of his childhood, but his memories were fond enough of the area that he used it as his inspiration.
During the 1950’s, both Disney and Goff got together to reminisce on memories of their hometowns in order to begin crafting Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. Goff actually returned to Fort Collins during this time period in order to take photographs of the buildings of his youth to use as models for his drawings. Disney actually never saw Fort Collins in person, but he became fascinated with the look of the town thanks to Goff’s photos and rich descriptions.
After the completion of Main Street U.S.A. it was easy to see the influence Fort Collins played on the design. Goff’s beautiful artistry really comes through in the design and his memories of his hometown are apparent.
Disneyland opened July 17, 1955 and is the second-most popular theme park in the entire world today, and Main Street U.S.A. is one of its most popular attractions. It is second only to its sister theme park the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. For side-by-side comparisons please see this Colorado Life Magazine article.