A Cinderella story for Walt Disney’s childhood home
Walt Disney’s childhood home may open soon
by John P Owens at Chicago Tribune
It is a modest, two-story frame house, sitting on the corner of Tripp Avenue and Palmer Street in Chicago’s working class Hermosa neighborhood. A young itinerant contractor named Elias Disney built it with his own hands in 1891. His wife, Flora gave birth to Walter “Walt” Elias Disney in a second-floor bedroom on Dec. 5, 1901.
Brent Young and Dina Benadon, the current owners of the house, want to slowly open the property to the public, starting with the neighborhood kids where the house is located. “We believe there’s a lot of parallels between Walt and Roy’s story and what kids in Hermosa go through today. This was a humble, working-class home and these are working-class homes today. But this house is a symbol of the American Dream,” Young said.
Their initial plan was to preserve it to its original state — but now those plans have been expanded. They also want to establish a multimedia-rich museum on the site, which would re-create what life was like for the Disneys in Chicago back in the early 20th century.
“Eventually, we’re going to do some tricks and magic with audio and video, so you can see the shadows of the Disney children running through the house and hear the sounds of the streets, circa 1901,” Young said. “We want to make it a completely authentic experience.”
The couple also want to establish a center for early childhood creativity at the location. “We want to give back to the community and help people understand the importance of early childhood development,” Benadon said. “Because that’s what Walt went through when he was here. He was home-schooled until he was 7. So the question is what went on inside this home to give so much inspiration and stability to the children.”
So far, about $75,000 has been spent on the property, primarily on exterior restoration, including tearing off aluminum siding, which covered the house for years, in order to reveal the original wood frame structure. “We’ve done a lot of work on the interior of the house with regards to the forensics, pulling up the floor boards and everything around the windows,” Young said. Now, however, the construction work has been temporarily halted, while the couple wait for the city to approve their permits to allow for the reinstallation of the porch, the picket fence and the replacement of the house’s current windows with painstakingly crafted Victorian re-creations.
The couple also need the house to be granted landmark status by the city, in order to further extend the house’s profile locally and nationally. The Disney home was up for consideration by the City Council’s Committee on Historic Landmarks in 1997, but it was voted down because it previously did not match its original appearance. Now that the restoration work has begun, preservation experts believe that the landmark status is more likely to come soon.
complete story and VIDEO at Chicago Tribune