Walt Disney Childhood Home Owners Unveil Plans for Museum

By Victoria Johnson on December 5, 2013 4:02pm | Updated on December 5, 2013 6:07pm

HERMOSA — A California couple who purchased Walt Disney's childhood home unveiled plans for its restoration and transformation into a museum Thursday.

A crowd of local politicians, officials and school children gathered at the home at 2156 N. Tripp Ave. On the 112th anniversary of Disney's birth,  Ald. Rey Colon (35th) read a statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaiming it "Walt Disney Day."

The home was purchased by California couple Dina Benadon and Brent Young in June.

"Part of our plan is to really bring this house to life so when you visit it and go inside of it you will experience what it was like to be a part of the Disney family," said Young.

The couple plan to restore the home — originally built in 1893 by Walt Disney's father with plans drawn up by his mother — and hope to obtain landmark status for it before turning it into a museum celebrating the life and Chicago beginnings of Disney and his brother, Roy O. Disney.

Thursday's events included a performance of "Happy Birthday" sung by fourth-graders from nearby Nixon Elementary School and comments from several local politicians and officials, including state Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago) who lives just around the corner from the Disney house.

"We need innovation," he said. "This is right on time so we're very, very excited."

Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), whose ward included the house before the recent ward remap, also spoke about his excitement to see the boon to the neighbood.

"This is history," he said. "The Hermosa community is a community that deserves this recognition."

Benadon and Young, who own a production studio of their own, have launched a website and Kickstarter campaign to raise awareness of the project, as well as raise some funds.

Young said they are also looking for more historic photographs of the house to aid the restoration team, which includes preservation architect Charles Pipal, Chicago historian Tim Samuelson and preservation consultant Timothy Barton.

When it's all finished, the team hopes to gain landmark status for the house as well as some of that Disney cachet.

An effort to landmark the house in 1997 failed in a City Council amid complaints that Disney was anti-Semitic, a charge a spokesman for the Hermosa project has disputed. Benadon and Young did not take questions from the media at the Thursday event.

Barton said he hopes the house might even reach the recognition of other Disney sites such as Magic Kingdom and the Epcot Center sphere.

"I'd like to think that after this restoration is done we can add this house as another one of those icons," he said.

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