Empress Lilly and the Disney Village from 1977

Empress Lilly and the Disney Village from 1977

The Fall 1977 Disney News offers one of the best covers of any Disney-related publication that I’ve run across. It’s a simple, but well-composed shot of the relatively new Empress Lilly riverboat.

cover the the Disney New featuring the Empress Lilly

COVER STORY: The “launching” of the new Empress Lilly riverboat restaurant reflects a new era in dining and entertainment at Florida’ s Walt Disney World Village in Lake Buena Vista. The story of her dining splendor plus other new additions to the Village begins on page 2.

The image of the Empress Lilly is framed by the blurred trees, the guests and the walkway. The brick planter and lampposts show off the (then) contemporary design of commercial naturalism, which means lots of muted browns and other natural colors, sharp and distinct brick walls that line meandering pathways, cedar shingles and woodwork on most buildings, and a separation of pedestrian and vehicles transportation to create a sense of charm.

Check out how they built the Empress Lilly Riverboat.

The Village: some things old, some things new

The article from Disney News (Fall, 1977):

Twinkling lights dancing on a placid nighttime waterfront are reflections of a new era in dining and entertainment at the Walt Disney World Village at Lake Buena Vista. The Empress Lilly has arrived!

Now permanently docked on the Buena Vista Lagoon, this elegant Mississippi-style riverboat is only one of several exciting additions to the cluster of shops and restaurants at the Village. The Village started taking onits new personality early this past spring when the Empress Lilly was receiving her final touches. An expanded Toys Fantastique shop in a new location was already delighting young and old with a wider selection of playthings from all over the world.

Sassy’s, a stylish boutique for young juniors, joined the popular Miss Merrily’s Madness, for the more sophisticated young lady, and Plus You, an accessory show- case. In step with the changes, Shoe Time opened its doors to a fashionable array of footwear. Across the walkway, the Village Spirits celebrated the addition of the Vintage Cellar where aged cheeses can be selected along with fine wines ranging from California Zinfadel to French Bordeaux to German Trockenbeerenauslese.

Then, as spring turned towards summer, the grand lady of the river let down her gangplanks and welcomed aboard all who had come to dine in the splendor of days past. The Empress Lilly (named after Walt Disney’s widow, Lillian) has since been serving guests daily in her three main dining rooms and four lounges, plus her Texas Deck banquet room and lounge.

An authentic reproduction of earlier stern-wheelers, the Empress Lilly is decorated in the grand style of those 19th-century steam crafts. Satins and velvets are lovely accents to the dark mahogany and bentwood furniture and beams, brass lamps, crystal chandeliers and silk damask wall covering.

The finest western beef and seaman’s ale tempt the palates of diners in the Steerman’s Quarters where, through large windows, they can gaze upon the constantly churning paddle wheel.

Up the Grand Staircase and to the bow of the boat is the Fisherman’s Deck, a restaurant that specializes in seafood delicacies, from fresh Main Lobster and red snapper to sandabs and filet of pompano. The evenings are unmatched in elegance as the Empress Room caters to her gourmet guests in a Louis XV setting. The menu includes such entrees as roast pheasant and sauteed abalone.

With summer came the opening of the new Village Pavilion Verandah Restaurant and Ice Cream Fountain and the Village Bakery Workshop, wharf­side neighbors of the Empress Lilly. Reminders of the old-fashioned bakery and ice cream parlor days, the shops within the Village Pavilion serve giant Borden ice cream creations, crepes, sand­ wiches, salads and freshly baked Sara Lee cakes and pastries.

All together, old and new, the Walt Disney World Village is a unique place to visit. There are over 30 different shops to explore, seven restaurants, a lounge with top-name jazz musicians, and numerous craftsmen demon­ strating their special skills.

Of course, there is also an endless calendar of special events at the Village. This fall the Boat Show returns October 14, 15 and 16. On November 11, 12 and 13, the annual Art Festival in the Village will attract master artists and craftsmen from all over the United States.

No matter how many times you visit the Walt Disney World Village, like the rest of the Vaca­tion Kingdom, you will always find find something fun, new and exciting there.

Do you remember visiting the Walt Disney World Village in the 1970s?

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4 thoughts on “Empress Lilly and the Disney Village from 1977

      1. Absolutely. It was the only retail anywhere around while we were working on Epcot. We would buy groceries at the market there (great prime steaks), wine the wine shop, books in the bookstore. It really was a village in those days.

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