Because of it, Disney fans will soon be able to visit Walt Disney’s childhood home.
The modest, two-story frame house, located at 2156 North Tripp Avenue (formerly 1249 Tripp Avenue), was built in 1893 by Walt’s father, Elias, and designed by his mother, Flora. Elias Disney built two other homes on the same block, in addition to St. Paul Congregational Church. Elias, who had moved with Flora from Florida to Chicago to work on the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, originally bought the lot in the sparsely populated neighborhood — it had just two paved roads — for $700. Walt was the couple’s fourth son, born on the second floor on December 5, 1901.
And Thursday, on what would have been Walt’s 112th birthday, the restoration and preservation of the home officially kicked off with a press conference held at the historic site in the hermosa (Spanish for “beautiful”) neighborhood.
I was tucked in among the media reporting on the momentous event (yep, still geeking), along with Alderman Rey Colon; new homeowners and Los Angeles-based animators Brent Young and Dina Benadon; Director of the Illinois Film Office, Betsy Steinberg; Preservation Architect Charles Pipal; Chicago Cultural Historian Tim Samuelson; and a number of community leaders. The year-long process of restoring the home to its turn-of-the-century glory and turning it into a historical landmark and private museum is slated to take a year.
As part of the celebration, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed it Walt Disney Day in Chicago.
“One of the world’s most iconic and celebrated men, Walt Disney played many roles including but certainly not limited to those of animator, director, screenwriter, and entrepreneur,” the mayor said in a statement. “This historic home, the birthplace of cultural juggernaut Walt Disney, will henceforth be preserved for the ages contributing to the greater social and historical education of all Chicago residents through multifaceted outreach programs and initiatives.”
Young and Benadon bought the house for $173,000 and hope it will serve as a “community resource with a mission of enhancing and exploring childhood creativity” through The Walt Disney Birthplace Project.
The couple has worked in the theme park industry for more than 20 years and credits the Disney family for inspiring their careers. They purchased the home as a way “to give back and protect the site where the Disneys were nurtured as boys, leading them to become pioneering giants of family entertainment.”
Plans for the home’s restoration include reimagining it to look just as it did when a young Walt would have run through its halls with his brothers and sister, creating tours, curating exhibitions, and collecting personal anecdotes from the community-at-large who may have interacted with the Disneys over the years.
The couple says their ultimate goal is to inspire parents “to raise more Walts,” and they launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising at least $500,000 to cover the costs associated with the project.
With that, take a look at a retrospective of the home — yesterday, today, and tomorrow:
To learn more about The Disney Birthplace Project, visit thewaltdisneybirthplace.org.
Photo credits: Pilar Clark, Walt Disney Family Museum (portrait of Elias and Flora Disney, Walt and Ruth Disney, and original photo of the home only)
Travelhound Pilar wouldn’t mind being at Walt Disney World eating the ears off a Mickey ice cream bar right about now. But, since she can’t be at her “second home” year round, she curates happy thoughts on Disney Social Media Magic, a virtual springboard where breaking news and other Disneyfied thingamabobs are shared. For more mouse-minded geekery, join Pilar on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and personal site, One Mom Media.