Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Revolutionary Delta Court of Flags

When I was nine, my family went to Florida. This was my first ever vacation, outside of our summer cottage, and when I found out that I was actually going to be in the same vicinity as Mickey Mouse himself; I got nervous.

The plan was to stay a week in Orlando, so my brother and I could meet Mickey and then we'd spend a week in Madeira Beach in a rented, waterfront condo. Since it was October, I'd be out of school for two weeks so, of course, my teacher Mr. Wilson assigned me some homework (or I suppose 'tripwork' would be more accurate). This tripwork however, was simply to keep a journal, and journal writing was already becoming a habit of mine, so it was not much like work. Packed up, equipped with my bright yellow Hilroy notebook, we set off, and I cried. My brother cried. We were an embarrassing disaster from the start as our ears popped for the first time in our lives on the ascent. When I think back, I realize how mortifying this must have been for my parents as my brother and I were respectively seven and nine years old...hardly babies. But we made it up, and cried all the way back down again. This was the beginning of the trip which opened everyone's eyes that I was not a good traveler.

I have fond memories of Disney, and equally fond memories of our condo on the beach. But there are a few in particular which stand out:
a) listening to Madonna's 'Live to Tell' while playing with my 'Hot Looks' doll
b) realizing, as I bit into a toasted egg sandwich, that spilled all down the front of my shirt, that I hated eating in restaurants and refused to do so again
c) getting my arms and legs stung by a jellyfish
d) collecting the little sandwich topping toothpick & paper flags from our hotel, the Delta Court of Flags, and pasting them into my notebook and
e) writing in said notebook, on our balcony in said hotel (outside, in front of the hot exhaust from our room's AC, in 35 degree sunshine - to this day I love hot air blowing on me)

The other day, I was thinking of this hotel and it's giant clover shaped pool, the very pool in which my brother became a swimmer, starting him off on his early career as a lifeguard & swim instructor. I was too afraid to swim out into the deep middle of this pool (I was ridiculously petrified of just about everything then) as my brother passed me in the fast lane, just about a million times. So in thinking of this hotel, I decided to look it up on line, and what I found out were two very interesting things.

Firstly, it made me realize that perhaps my parents were a little more forward thinking then I thought, for this hotel was no ordinary hotel. This point goes directly along with the second interesting thing I learned: the revolutionary Delta Court of Flags was, in a word, insane! I had no idea that this ridiculous type of architecture existed, and beyond that, why my parents would have ever chosen to stay there! I was shocked, and I really have to explain this building style to you. As a sidenote: this is one of those moments when my entire memory of something has been slightly altered with the knowledge of this new information.

The Delta Court of Flags was a modern (in 1987) feat of architecture. It was a design which builders were positive would take off, and change the shape of building for the rest of eternity. It's many rooms were pre-constructed, off site, and then slid into the facade of the hotel like drawers in a dresser. This revolutionary technique was thought to be the best (and most futuristic) way to deal with renovations later on. They would simply just need to slide the rooms back out of the hotel, take them to a warehouse somewhere, re-design the rooms, and slide them back into the hotel...genius??? Who in their right mind would ever conceive of an idea like this? I had absolutely no idea that this beloved hotel from my past was such a farce, and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure my parents knew either. I really can't see them choosing such a place as they have always been stoically traditional and frugal. I cannot wait to enlighten them on this discovery.

I also found out in my research that sadly, the hotel closed down in 2006. As it turns out, this modern feat of architecture proved terrible. With the heat and humidity in Florida, the rooms began to warp and therefore could no longer be removed from the hotel. Other then that, the gaps between the rooms' walls and the facade of the hotel left nothing but space for mold to grow, and the whole place had to be torn down.

In honour of this ridiculous hotel, which lives on in my memory as a special place, and the beginning of many family vacations, I'm offering up some footnotes here for you.

Wikipedia Reports: "The Court of Flags Resort is noted for its unique construction type. The rooms were slid into bays built into the frame of the resort building. They used the same system the Contemporary Resort and Polynesian Resort used at Walt Disney World.

US Steel thought this new system of building would catch on and revolutionize construction. When rooms needed to be upgraded they could be removed and a new one added. However, this and the Contemporary Resort both were prototypes of this type construction. The system had flaws that were not known until later. The buildings shifted and settled. The rooms could never be removed again. The air space between the rooms kept too much moisture and let mildew grow."

R.I.P. Delta Court of Flags
And PS: I never did meet Mickey...he was off on vacation.


Scott said...

I enjoyed reading your comments about the Court of Flags. I love when I come across things about the resort.
That place will always be special to me for an entirely different set of reasons. My father was on the management team in the late 70's at the resort.
I was the one that started the wiki page after I built my tribute page.
When you did stay there yourself, did you visit the Mystery Fun House?
Do you have any pictures of the hotel?



crispy said...

Hi Scott,
Thanks so much for your comments! I do have fond memories of the place, but not too many was so long ago! Unfortunately I don't have any pictures, only pictures in my mind.

Mystery Fun House? I don't remember, I think I was missing out!


Scott said...

Anonymous said...

My kids and I were at Delta Orlando Resort in June of 1993. We loved it. All the pools, hot tubs and such. They even had activities for kids back then. It is a shame to see how it has been torn down and abandoned. What a shame.

Cristy said...

It is a shame. I LOVED all those pools when I was a kid too!

Patsy said...

Hi...I'm brazilian...I've been in Delta ? Court of flags in 1987, I was a 7 years old girl, with my mother, uncle, aunt and grandma, in vacation...were SO HAPPY days, sunny and so good...and in these days I was remembering and then I went to google for,,,,and found the resort over...oh, I was SO sad! shed some tears, nostalgia and gloom. I have a daughter now, and I thought about staying there again, rs. I have some pictures of and cherish it...and Mystery Fun House too, it was memorable, rs. Thanks for the infos...I loved that pool...lovely clover pool of my memories.