The home on Chicago's Northwest Side where Walt Disney was born in 1901 has been sold to a California couple who aim to make it a historical site, museum and community resource.
Situated in the working-class and now mostly Hispanic neighborhood of Hermosa, the 1600-square-foot two-flat at 2156 N. Tripp Ave. has been on the market for several years, its history largely unknown, according to Ald. Rey Colon, 35th.
"Hermosa is kind of an unlikely place for something like this to happen," Colon said. "This will really add to lifting up that particular part of the area, that part of the neighborhood."
The home's humble history and location is part of the appeal for the new owners. Brent Young and Dina Benadon, who are married and own an animation studio in Silver Lake, Calif., have spent much of their careers designing theme park attractions. When Walt and his brother and business partner, Roy, were born in the house, they said, Hermosa was also a working-class neighborhood.
"That these two amazing men came out of that average neighborhood — anyone can do it," Benadon said. "There seems to be a great symbol for the neighborhood and for Chicago and the American Dream."
Walt Disney's father built the house in what was then a new section of Chicago, and the family lived there from 1893 until Walt was about 4. His father also built a church around the corner and worked on the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the world's fair that reportedly inspired Disney's theme park ventures.
On Thursday — Walt Disney's birthday — the owners will join the alderman, a grandson of Roy Disney and their team of preservationists at the house to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise $500,000 for renovations. Prizes for donors will range from getting their name inscribed in a leather-bound book that will remain in the house to a one-night stay — for a donation of $10,000. The owners bought the house for $173,000 and at this point have not filed for nonprofit status.
Young, Benadon and their restoration team are brainstorming ways to make the home an attraction that will inspire creativity in young people. The team hopes to gain landmark status for the structure. An attempt in the 1990s failed, largely because the owner opposed it. Research and design plans will be made this winter, and in the spring, crews will begin removing aluminum siding and undoing decades worth of renovations and additions.
"We're hoping that there's something in there," Young said. "Walt's original cartoon drawings of the little mouse in the corner, maybe."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun