by Paul F. Anderson

When Walt first approached Joe Fowler about the construction of a mountain at Disneyland, the retired U.S. Navy admiral must have wondered if he would be keeping his “can-do” title. The building of the Matterhorn in 1958-1959 presented challenges in design and construction that had never been encountered in engineering. Most uncommon to the mountain was the steel framework. Each steel girder was of a different length and weight–and in a variety of sizes. In fact, when Disney engineers ordered the steel (each and every piece different) the steel company’s salesman was dumbfounded. When it was finished, 2,175 pieces of steel were used to construct the replica of the famous Alpine peak.

In a 1973 interview, the Admiral (seen at right with his customary hat and taking a trip down the mountain in a bobsled with Walt) recalled working with Walt Disney on the Matterhorn:

“I can remember when we built the mountain–the first mountain we built. This was in May. We would open in June. And Walt had come down for his customary Saturday morning eyeball inspection. We would change a few things. We were walking into the Red Wagon and one side of the mountain was pretty well finished. The other side, the bare steel was exposed and what not.

“And Walt said, ‘Oh, well, Joe, you know the side toward the hub is finished. That’s the side I want to photograph and we can dress the other end.

“And I said to Walt, ‘Well, I’ll tell you, I think we’ll have it finished.’ And of course we did. ‘But,’ I said, ‘The next time, Walt, we have to build a mountain, let’s let God do it!’

“Six months later we were at the Studio. We had spent the morning down on one of the stages looking at the mountain in Nature’s Wonderland which wasn’t as high. But we’d been down there an hour and a half and on the way to the animation building–Dick [Irvine], Bill Martin and myself–Walt turned to me and he said ‘Well, Joe, do you feel like God today?’ Now, it was just a casual remark six months after that.”

(Above left photo also showing the “test run” day, with Walt [left of Fowler] and the Admiral [in his hat] having just returned from their ride. As with all DHI photos, click on the image for a much larger and clearer view.)

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