Attraction Archaeology: The Streets of America

Share This!

Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort is no stranger to change. When it first opened May 1, 1989, the park was called Disney-MGM Studios. Disney intended the park to be an East Coast Hollywood with fully functioning studios, backlots, and animation wing. Instead of showing guests how movies are made, the Disney’s Hollywood Studios of today is all about putting guests into the movies. Due to this change of vision, original attractions and spaces from the park’s past have been replaced.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which recently opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on August 29, is a massive 14 acres and occupies a number of the park’s original venues. So for today’s installment of Attraction Archaeology, we’re digging for what came before that galaxy far, far away and what remains of it today beginning with the Streets of America!

What Were the Streets of America?

The Streets of America were two intersecting streets with sets and facades designed to look like New York City and San Francisco. New York Street came first and was part of the original version of the Backlot Tour when the park first opened May 1, 1989.

Both streets reflected the architecture of their respective locations were layered with props and details. For instance, there was a faux subway stairwell, newspaper racks, themed window displays, and even simulated traffic sound effects. Even though the streets were mainly places to explore and take photos, guests could shop at Youse Guys Moychindice and pose with the Singin’ in the Rain umbrella complete with rain effects!

In the Streets of America’s later years, Mr. Gold’s Pawn Shop from ABC’s Once Upon a Time television series occupied a storefront and featured a window display filled with props from the series.

Courtesy of Yesterland

At the end of both New York Street and San Francisco Street stood force perspective murals. They simulated the continuation of the city streets and their skylines. However, New York Street also had a physical Washington Square Arch which stood at the opposite end of the street until the early 2000s.

At times, the Streets of America were used as entertainment locations. In the early years of the park, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would perform and meet with guests. Those who visited the park through the years may also remember performances from Mulch, Sweat n’ Shears and the beloved Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights during the holidays.

Where Were The Streets of America?

The Streets of America stood where both Grand Avenue and the entrance into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is today.

When Did They Close?

Saying goodbye to the Streets of America

The Streets of America closed to guests on April 2, 2016. Even though fans of the park were excited about the upcoming addition of Galaxy’s Edge, it was sad to see this area go. After all, New York Street was a remnant of the park’s opening day and one of the last standing testaments to its original vision.

Where Can You Find Remnants of the Streets of America Today?

When the Streets of America closed, Imagineers did preserve a small section of the New York Street facades and re-themed them as Grand Avenue. Although, these buildings are no longer from New York. Grand Avenue is set in Los Angeles where vintage buildings and warehouses have been converted into new businesses.

Much like the Streets of America, guests can’t enter these buildings; and since the park has abandoned its film set theme, I don’t exactly understand its purpose. Still, I’m glad it’s here for the sake of park history.

Courtesy of Yesterland

There are other surviving remnants of the Streets of America, and they’re not too far away. In fact, guests need only to walk a few yards over to PizzeRizzo. On the second floor of the restaurant, guests can find New York City traffic and subway signs. These are the same signs from the Streets of America’s New York Street as seen in the pictures above!

While I enjoy what the Disney Parks have to offer now, I also enjoy discovering relics and tributes to the magic and memories that came before and their presence in the parks today. Did you ever experience the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? If so, please share your experiences!

Savannah Sanders

Savannah has been visiting Disney World since she was a year old and has gone back almost every year since. In the real world, she teaches high school history and government and enjoys writing about all things Disney. Savannah can be reached on Twitter @DisneyParkSavvy.

5 thoughts on “Attraction Archaeology: The Streets of America

  • October 19, 2019 at 4:25 pm
    Permalink

    Loved the Osborne lights.

    Reply
  • October 19, 2019 at 8:38 pm
    Permalink

    It’s really interesting to think of all the changes that have been made to the Disney parks over the years, and this picture story is a great way to see it all together! I hope you have more.

    Reply
    • October 20, 2019 at 8:08 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks for your comment, Kathy! Be on the lookout for another Attraction Archaeology post next week!

      Reply
  • October 21, 2019 at 12:14 pm
    Permalink

    Anyone know if Osborne Lights will ever return? And where?

    Reply
    • October 25, 2019 at 1:53 am
      Permalink

      No, and who knows. With the Streets of America gone forever, there isn’t another big “cityscape” in WDW that could be used to present the Osborne lights in a similar fashion as before. They certainly COULD be installed on Main Street, but that’s not going to happen.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *