Below is an archive of letters from 1965-1970 regarding the sale of ten acres in Orange County, Florida owned by family representatives of an estate to Disney for Project Florida / Walt Disney World.
Based on information gleaned from the archive, the children of a man named G.C. McFall inherited two parcels of land - one ten acres and the other appx. 1/7 acre. His daughter Birdella McKee, who lived in Iowa, served as administrator while her sister Ethel in California and brother Charles, also in Iowa, were the other heirs.
The archive indicates that it was a bit of a feeding frenzy for real estate in Orange County once it was known that Disney was buying - which is not really a surprise. Ultimately it appears that Disney bought the 10 acre lot for $1500 an acre or $15,000.
Featured in the archive are letters from Disney's Robert Foster who was in charge of the search for land for WDW. Click here for his entry on D23.com
Each picture can be enlarged by clicking on it. If you prefer a PDF of the archive, without the commentary click here.
The maps below illustrate where the parcels were located. The top two images contain the location of the 1/7 acre -- lots 13 and 14 in section 78 of Township 24, Range 28. The right side with the circle and the "X" and the name "McKee". The bottom image shows the ten acre parcel in section 19, lots 15 and 16 in the red square.
Map #3, furnished by Disney
10/22/65: After the news of Disney buying land in Florida became public knowledge, this letter from real estate firm Florida Ranch Lands Inc. is sent as a follow up to a phone call it had with Birdella. The agent says he has a buyer for the ten acre land, which it mislabels as located in Range 29 in the subject line (should say Range 28). He says he has a buyer for the land and believes he can offer $350 per acre or $3500 total - net of all charges. He also says that while he cannot yet officially make the offer yet, "within a few days I will be able to". He them goes on to detail the process. It is unclear if the buyer here is Disney or another company or even a private buyer.
12/29/65: Letter from Ethel to Birdella regarding letting "Disney-realtors" know about their smaller parcel and the people who own the land around the parcel. This implies that Disney may have already reached out about the larger parcel .
1/13/66: Letter from realtor John Allen to Birdella telling her that a store owner in the neighborhood had recommended him to either her father or brother to sell the ten acre parcel. Allen says his firm specializes in selling property since the "Disney announcement".
1/22/66: After Birdella responds to John Allen's letter (not in the archive) he writes back to say recent sales similar to her tracts have been priced $2000-3000 per acre and he recommends they ask $2500. He also recommends how to structure the mortgage by making it as long as possible as these are long-term investors. He suggests they sell ASAP as the market is hot because of Disney but it is likely at its peak and there is no guarantee WDW will even happen and prices could plummet to $200 an acre soon.
1/27/66: A man who says he works for the tax assessor's office and has dealt with the sale of land to Disney for $150-$200 an acre but knows it can go as high as $400 writes to Birdella to tell her that her land could go for $600-$650 because it is surrounded by "Disney Tract." He is letting Birdella know that if she is interested he can put her in touch with a man who was in his office and willing to pay that price. There is something fishy about this letter from its non-official letterhead to the pricing discussion.
2/10/66: Form letter from the Orlando Chamber of Commerce to Birdella, perhaps in a response to a letter from Birdella (not present). The letter provides the official position that Disney World is still in the planning stages along with some stats. There is also a mention of the never-built Western World
2/21/66: Letter from Ethel to Charles regarding a call she had from "Disneyland" that "Mr. Foster", the name of the Disney representative throughout the archive (Robert Foster), was called out of town and would call later. She writes that she hopes to get a "good-sized offer" because "they will make a mint in years to come".
2/23/66: John Allen responds to a letter from Birdella in which she apparently refused his offer to buy her ten acres.
3/10/66: Letter from Disney's Robert Foster to Ethel discussing his plans to visit her brother and sister in Iowa. He expresses the company's interest in buying the acres but only "as a matter of convenience" which means there are "practical limitations on the price".
3/11/66: Short letter from Ethel to Charles enclosing a piece of mail from Disney - perhaps the letter above.
3/13/66: Ethel writes to Charles about random personal issues but also about a neighbor's experiences dealing with Disney. This one is a little tricky to read but there is a reference to "Model City" which presumably is the original vision on EPCOT, and "the Disneyland project."
3/31/66: Disney's Robert Foster writes a letter after a meeting with Birdella and Charles in Iowa. He gives them an update on WDW planning pointing out that they are still figuring out drainage issues and no formal planning or development has begun. In fact he notes there is no guarantee WDW will even happen. He points out he is interested in their land only for "convenience" and therefore the price will be mitigated. The main reason for his letter is to suggest instead of cash for their acres that they trade them for ten acres Disney owns near a roadway which apparently they do not need but it is unclear why they own them. He refers to an enclosed map that is map #3 above.
4/5/66: Legal notice of formation of drainage district for Reedy Creek aka WDW giving Birdella an opportunity to appear if she has cause to prevent this from happening.
4/12/66: A letter from an attorney in Florida to an attorney in Iowa, working for the McFall estate, regarding property owners who find they do not have access to roadways and potential remedies, and a cover letter forwarding the response on to Birdella.
4/21/66: Another attempt by John Allen Realty to represent the McFall estate land
4/22/66: Formal notice of a hearing to form the Reedy Creek Drainage District.
4/23/66: Letter from Ethel to Birdella suggesting they start with a price of $120,000 for Disney to buy the land, net of expenses.
4/29/66: Letter from Ethel to Birdella and Charles relating that she spoke to Robert Foster and told him that they were asking $100,000 for their land ($10K per acre). He responded this was not going to happen and details the reasons why. Foster said the only way to make that type money would be to accept the swap (mentioned in the Disney letter above) and that the best Disney can offer is $1500 per acre.
5/1/66: Ethel sends a check to Birdella for the Florida attorney inquiry in the letters above. Also mentions the apparent stress of talking to Robert Foster
5/4/66: Robert Foster writes regarding the phone call he had with Ethel referred to above. He reiterates that the $100,000 offer is rejected. He then details the drainage work that is being done. According to an independent appraisal the acreage is worth $750-$1000 per acre and the highest price they have paid is $1400. Next, Foster discusses the timeline for next steps in WDW development and offers to meet with her when he is in Chicago on a trip or even in Florida.
5/14/66: Ethel writes to Birdella expressing her hope the deal with Disney can close soon.
5/22/66: Ethel writes to Birdella again discussing her hopes for a sale and also trying to recall what Robert Foster said when they spoke.
5/24/66: Holiday Inn responds to a letter that Birdella must have written (not present) exploring selling the land to Holiday Inn in hope of getting a higher price. The company tells Birdella that they are not looking to put a Holiday Inn in that area.
8/2/66: Another sales pitch from John Allen Realty.
8/10/66: According to this letter from the estate attorneys, a deal was reached with Disney and the first payment is now with the bank.
8/31/66: The lawyers send their bill
9/4/66: Ethel writes to Birdella regarding paying the legal bill.
11/19/66: Ethel writes to Birdella regarding paying taxes and the experiences of another land-owner.
12/6/67: Fast-forward one year later, another real estate agency is hoping to be an agent for the sale of Birdella's land although it is unclear if this is the 10 acre parcel or the 1/7 acre.
1/9/68: A real estate company, Orlando Land Company, offers to trade the other parcel of land not sold to Disney.
1/22/68: Birdella responds to Orlando Land Company informing them that the lots are owned by her and her siblings and that they do want to trade - they are for sale only.
1/25/68: Orlando Land Company responds asking how much she wants to sell the lots for
1/31/68: 1099 from Disney for interest paid on the purchase of the land.
3/22/68: Orlando Land Company follows up with an offer for $195 for the smaller parcel on behalf of a client building a trailer park site or to trade for lots that could be more valuable later.
No date but Ethel writing to Birdella in response to the two letters directly above from Orlando Land Company.
3/29/68: Notice of an application to change the zoning classification of an area next to Birdella's land from Ranch/Farmland to Mobile Home.
5/9/68: Follow up notice for May 20th Board of Appeal hearing on the zoning chane.
5/11/68: Letter from Ethel to Birdella regarding Disney and other efforts to sell the other parcel.
5/12/68: Ethel To Birdella speculating about the land trade and suspicious that Disney is behind the whole thing and that they should wait for the better deal .
5/15/68: Letter from Birdella to Orlando Land Company regarding a phone call with another offer to trade for their lot - which she and the family rejects.
6/28/68: Notice from Orange County regarding more proposed zoning changes.
7/15/68: Disney / Robert Foster letter to the siblings regarding the current balance on the company's payment to them which is $14,643.75 - suggesting the full price was $15000. Disney is offering to pay them the full balance and interest accrued. He also says WDW is on track for a 1971 opening.
No date but circa July 1968. Response to above Disney letter stating she does not want to take the lump payment as she thinks they sold cheap and the interest is best way to get the most value.
11/11/70: Another real estate company looking to buy the smaller parcel of land for a mobile home developer for $575.
An undated, very high high level "map" of Disneyland - unclear its relevance to this archive.