Renovation Work Begins on Chicago's Walt Disney Birth Home

Renovation Work Begins on Chicago's Walt Disney Birth Home

While the various wonders of Disney may be far from the Windy City, many may not know Chicago is a very large part of Walt Disney lore.

Walt Disney was born in 1901 in a modest home at 2156 N. Tripp Ave. in the Hermosa neighborhood of Chicago, which today is a mostly Hispanic community. Disney and his family lived there until 1905. 

The home has had many owners through the years, and renovations have covered up many of the home's original features, wiping away much of its historical value. 

Today, the home is owned by Brent Young and Dina Benadon, who run an animation studio in California, and are dedicated to restoring the Disney home to its original state. Their further hope is to turn the home into a museum and corporate headquarters for the nonprofit Center for Early Childhood Creativity and Innovation. 

Work on the renovations to the outside of the home began in earnest in recent weeks after enough money had been raised from a Kickstarter campaign to fund the work. So far, about $110,000 has been raised for the project, and another $390,000 may be needed to complete it. Donations are being accepted here

Angie’s List recently talked about the historic renovation project with Todd Regan, the executive director of the Walt Disney Birthplace organization.

When did the work to restore the home begin?

"We’ve been working with our restoration team since December of 2013 on historical research, architectural designs, construction plans and fundraising. While we hit a few potholes on the fundraising path early this year, we’ve finally been able to collect enough support to get the actual restoration underway!" 

How far along are you?

"The project is broken up into multiple phases. The first phase, “Repair and Protect,” is designed to secure the 1893 house against the ravages of Chicago’s harsh winters. We’ve been able to repair the siding, and seal and paint the structure which will hold us over until Spring. This was the most important step as it ensures that the home will be saved from the elements. Phase two, “Beautification,” will begin after the last threat of frost and will involve the replacing of all modern windows with Victorian inspired windows reminiscent of what may have originally been on the house.  We’ll also rebuild the front porch, install a white picket fence, landscape, and replace all the hardware and doors on the exterior of the home."  

When do you hope it will be complete?

"The exterior of this historic home should be complete by the end of Summer 2015 and it will be a real treasure for the city of Chicago and Disney fans everywhere. We’ll reevaluate our financial situation at that time and determine the timeline for the interior restorations. All it takes is for one generous corporate sponsor or individual donor to step forward with a generous heart and wallet for us to complete the entire project. This is not an expensive project. We are ready to go as soon as enough funds materialize. It will happen – this house and the story behind it are just too important not to be fully preserved and told." 

What's your eventual hope for the home?

"We have ambitious plans for the house and the Walt Disney Story it represents. When complete, the home will be available for tours. Additionally, it will serve as the corporate headquarters of The Center for Early Childhood Creativity and Innovation (a 501c3 nonprofit). With Walt Disney as an inspiration, we want kids everywhere to know that regardless of their background or circumstances, they can achieve greatness, just like Walt did.  We would also like to build a visitor center, museum, store and soda fountain in a nearby business district so we can properly tell the turn-of-the-century Chicago and Walt Disney story." 

What kind of cultural value does the home hold for Chicago?

"This home tells a powerful story. In 1892, Flora Disney (Walt’s mother) designs a house which Elias Disney (Walt’s father) builds with his own two hands. Not only would it have been unheard of for a woman to design a house in the Victorian era, but Elias saw to it that Flora’s name was also on the deed of the house. Their marriage was a true partnership. And while they were a family of modest means (seven Disney family members all lived together in what we believe was a two bedroom house), they had two sons who achieved international acclaim. It’s the ultimate American Dream story – something for the city of Chicago to be proud of and a story to inspire children to pursue their dreams, hone their skills and reach for the stars.  For Chicago not to claim the Walt Disney story as its own is not just a missed opportunity, it would be a crime against history. We won’t allow that to happen. This story will be told. The house will be preserved. And with the help and support of the good citizens of Chicago, the dream will become a reality."  

Considering starting a large-scale renovation of your own? Check out our guide home renovations first.