I never used to think much about Walt Disney World roads. I simply followed the purple signs and got from one place to another or relied on Disney transportation. Once I became a local resident, suddenly road names were important to help me figure out how to get from point A to point B on and off property. At that point, I realized I how many roads had names that sounded like they must have a story behind them.
Some roads, like Epcot Center Drive or World Drive are pretty obvious where they got their inspiration. Other roads, like Dopey Drive back in the distribution center district, are both obvious for their inspiration, and fun names for roads in general. Besides those, there are quite a few road names that may not be obvious but, like many things Disney, have wonderful stories behind them.
Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway
Also known as US Highway 192. If you are staying off property, chances are you are probably very familiar with this road. It is named after Irlo Overstreet Bronson, Sr., a politician and rancher who owned a lot of property in the Disney area. His grandparents had moved from North Carolina to Florida in a two-wheeled ox cart in the 1860s and accumulated large amount of cattle ranchland. As the family ranches were passed from generation to generation, Irlo’s father (George W. Bronson) had more than 50,000 acres. Irlo added more land, but eventually sold 8380 acres for around $100 an acre to Disney, much to the ire of his family. Some say that he sold it at such a low price because he recognized that this would build a better future for Central Florida, but whether that was his actual motivation or just some rewriting of history is the subject of opinion and debate. Regardless, the sale of the ranch lands did allow for the development for Walt Disney World, and so Irlo Bronson’s name is memorialized in the highway running along the south side of property.
Going from Animal Kingdom Lodge east off property to become a toll road, Osceola Parkway is named after a Creek-Scots/Irish/English warrior of the Seminole tribe of Florida during the Second Seminole War. Born as Billy Powell in Alabama, he was given his adult name Osceola (Asi-yahola, a combination of the name for a ceremonial drink made from the yaupon holly and the word meaning “shout”) when his mother, a Creek woman, took him to Florida to join the Seminole tribe in 1814. Osceola led skirmishes against the United States, was staunchly opposed to slavery (as one of his two wives was African American), and eventually was captured and died of quinsy in 1838. He was buried at Fort Moultrie with military honors.
Bonnet Creek Parkway
While you are driving around the center of property, if you go over a small creek or canal, odds are good that you have just crossed Bonnet Creek (or some waterway that feeds into or allows for runoff from Bonnet Creek). Bonnet Creek Parkway, which stretches from Buena Vista Drive to Vista Boulevard goes past the side of Old Key West and in front of the Port Orleans resorts and runs roughly parallel to Bonnet Creek. According to the US Geological Survey, Bonnet Creek has a drainage area of 44.7 square miles and is regulated by automatic gates upstream since October 1968. It also provides some wonderful scenery among all the roads on property.
One of the most difficult road names to track down is Sherberth Road, known as the “back exit from property” just before you get to Animal Kingdom Lodge. This road takes you out to 192 but allows you to avoid some of the more congested parts. Sherberth Road is named after Wesley and Alma Sherberth. During World War II, Wesley Sherberth reached the rank of Lt. Commander and commanded the USS Medea, an Artemis Class Attack Cargo Ship in the Pacific Theater. Alma also served during the war, retiring as a Lt. Commander in the Navy Nurse Corps. Alma and Wesley moved to Kissimmee in the early 1960s and purchased land for a cattle and citrus farm in that area. Wesley died shortly thereafter, and Alma eventually sold the property to become part of Walt Disney World. Alma died in 2010 at the ripe old age of 95.
When Backstage Lane crosses Buena Vista Drive, it becomes Chelonia Parkway, which takes you back to the Bonnet Creek Resort area. If you are familiar with biological classification, you might know what “Chelonia” refers to. If not, Chelonia is just the fancy scientific name for the order of turtles and tortoises. But Chelonia Parkway sounds a lot more fancy and exotic than Turtle Parkway, right?
Extending from World Drive, past the Grand Floridian, and along the west side of the Magic Kingdom, the road known as Floridian Way used to be called Asian Way. At one time, the section of land where the Grand Floridian now stands was going to be home to a Thailand-themed hotel, and so the road running beside it was appropriately named Asian Way. When the Asian Resort never materialized, and the Grand Floridian was slated to take its place, the road was renamed Floridian Way to make sense in the new landscape.
This is a “blink and you’ll miss it” road that comes off of Epcot Center Drive and goes around the Epcot parking lot to connect to cast parking behind Epcot. To me, this has one of the best back stories of roads on property. When Epcot was being built, it was discovered that the endangered red-cockheaded woodpecker was living in some of the pine trees where the Epcot parking lot was to be located. An area of the parking lot was set aside for the woodpeckers (who promptly flew off, never to be seen on property again), and the road was named Woodpecker Lane to commemorate their presence.
(Although they haven’t been seen at Epcot, you might catch a glimpse of the woodpeckers at the Disney Wilderness Preserve, described here on pages 14-15.)
I had to include this road because it is my favorite road on property. It starts backstage at Epcot behind Test Track and goes up and over Epcot Center Drive and Bonnet Creek to connect to Bonnet Creek Parkway. It’s a road. It’s an overpass. It is Overpass Road. For some reason, that cracks me up every time.
There are many more roads with interesting stories all around property. Want to hear more stories? Got ideas for ones that you want to learn more about? Feel free to suggest ideas in the comments!