The History (and Mystery) Behind Disney World's Abandoned Discovery Island

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From the seashore at Walt Disney World Resort’s Wilderness Lodge, visitors can look out over Bay Lake and spy one thing a bit mysterious. Discovery Island, now deserted, was as soon as part of the resort and now lies empty regardless of its proximity to the park. So what is the historical past of the island, and why did it fall into disrepair?

Earlier than it turned part of Disney’s theme park, the island had an fascinating historical past. In response to Deserted Florida, a household as soon as owned the island and used the land for farming till the Nineteen Thirties. A person named Delmar “Radio Nick” Nicholson then purchased the land for $800 and renamed it Isles Bay Island. “He lived on the island together with his spouse and pet crane for 20 years earlier than promoting the property, which might be used as a searching retreat and once more renamed Riles Island,” says Deserted Florida. “The property was lastly bought by Disney in 1965.”

Within the Nineteen Sixties, when Walt Disney was within the means of buying land for what would ultimately be Walt Disney World in Florida, he observed the secluded island. Disney knew he needed this to be a part of the Disney World puzzle, so he bought it. This piece of secluded land would bear many modifications through the years, the primary of which got here at first levels. It was initially slated to be referred to as “Blackbeard’s Island” with a full-on pirate theme, however this actual imaginative and prescient by no means really got here to be.

It wasn’t till 1974, eight years after Walt Disney died, that the island was lastly opened as much as the general public underneath the identify Treasure Island, after the Robert Louis Stevenson ebook and movie. It featured unique birds, lagoons, seashores, vegetation, animal demonstrations and points of interest, and extra. Friends might entry the island from a Disney World resort dock or, much more thrilling, take a cruise that gave them a tour of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake with a pit cease at Treasure Island.

Treasure Island was renamed Discovery Island in 1978, ditching the pirate theme and embracing the concentrate on nature and the animal life that the island boasted. Regardless of the identify change, the island remained intact, with occasional upgrades for an additional 20-plus years. In 1998, Disney World’s Animal Kingdom opened and a brand new period of the park started. Animal Kingdom sought to usher in extra patrons with new animals, demonstrations, and different points of interest. Most of the animals dwelling on Discovery Island have been relocated to the brand new Animal Kingdom whereas others discovered new houses at numerous zoos throughout the US.

In 1999, Discovery Island closed, although hypothesis nonetheless stays immediately about what truly brought about the island attraction to close down. Within the final 20 years because the official closing, there have been rumors about what Disney deliberate to do with the land — phrase was that at one level, honeymoon cottages may go there, or that it might grow to be an interactive island based mostly off of a online game (um, cool!), however nothing ever got here of those.

As we speak, the land is undeveloped and closed to the general public. In 2009, photographer Shane Perez visited the island and revealed pictures of the attraction’s eerie stays. Whereas the island stays empty, it nonetheless manages to seize the imaginations of followers who ponder about its potential.