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This Hotel Suite Is a Love Letter to Disney's Iconic House of the Future

The Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel has recreated the magic of the midcentury modern Monsanto home made famous at Disneyland Park in the '50s and '60s as a new penthouse suite. And in this designer showcase, you can actually spend the night.

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Photo: Visit Anaheim

The House of the Future

These days, the hot new Disney attraction is thrilling and fast. But several Disney experiences remain beloved for their lo-fi aesthetic including the garden tour at EPCOT's Living With the Land or the distinctly modernist aesthetic of famed artist Mary Blair forever preserved in the It's a Small World ride. They're kitschy now but at the time these attractions were examples of cutting-edge tech and the forefront of design.

Walt Disney was highly inspired by the World's Fair and exhibits that blended education and entertainment. In its first decade, Disneyland had a chemistry museum — yes, really and even a designer showhouse. A blend of design and tech, the Monsanto House of the Future opened in 1957 and is the stuff of Disney and midcentury modern legend. An estimated 20 million guests walked through this highly curated, fully functioning home (which predicted some of the smart home features we now use) during the decade it was on display. And while the home doesn't exist anymore, you can get a taste of that midcentury magic just across the street from Disneyland. Here's the history of this fantastically retro pod and how one hotel is bringing it back in a new way.

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Photo: Visit Anaheim

Plastic Makes Perfect in the House of the Future

So how did this cross-shaped home come to be at Disneyland? Walt Disney was "house-hunting" for a new, futuristic attraction for Tomorrowland. And Monsanto Chemical Co. was working on something truly out-of-this-world: plastic. Without plastic we wouldn't have many of the iconic chairs we now associate with midcentury modern design. "Monsanto Chemical Co. wanted to prove that plastics had a place in housing," said Becky Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives.

"In 1953, a prototype home was conceived by their Plastics Division, with the aid of architectural firm Hamilton and Goody, and the Department of Civil Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology," said Cline. "Monsanto, which was already a participant in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland with its Hall of Chemistry attraction, built and opened the attraction at Disneyland in June of 1957 with the hope of widening the public and industrial acceptance of the then-blossoming field of plastics.

"The house featured four 8’x16’ molded plastic modules cantilevered in pairs from a 16-foot-square central utility core that also acted as a pedestal to support the home. The kitchen/laundry area sat in the center with four 'wings' that included two bedrooms, two baths, living and dining rooms."

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Photo: Visit Anaheim

A Midcentury Modern Gem in the Middle of a Theme Park

Beyond the novelty of plastic, Monsanto's House of the Future showcased many design marvels that were ahead of their time, from ergonomic cabinets that lowered or raised depending on your height to a very primitive Zoom-like chat system. "Special features included lightweight movable partitions and curtain walls with sandwich-panel construction; durable laminates for countertops, tables and walls; shatterproof, lightweight fiberglass panels to control light; foamed plastic for insulation; and textured surfaces, plastic gaskets and conduits; as well as ducts and piping that were molded into the floor and wall sections," said Cline. "Appliances and furniture matched the futuristic theme and showcased many amenities that did eventually come to be — including speaker and picture phones with preset dialing, central climate control, disappearing appliances and microwave cooking."

Of course, some features on display haven't happened yet. "Other more fanciful dreams included atomic food preservation, ultrasonic dishwashers and floating furniture," said Cline.

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Photo: Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel

Another Midcentury Modern Gem Down the Road

There are countless hotel options right beyond the Disneyland gates, but only one has kept its midcentury modern spirit: the HoJo. One of the first hotels to open in Anaheim in the decade following the park's opening, the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel still features a gorgeous arched roof in its signature lobby. And General Manager Jonathan Whitehead is in the process of adding more mid-mod design to the hotel's interiors, too. "I wanted an iconic midcentury modern suite to pay homage to our midcentury designed hotel next to Disneyland,” said Whitehead. So with designer Caroline Mclean, he set out to recreate a piece of the House of the Future.

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