Saving Walt and Roy Disney's Birthplace home is important for generations to come; let's restore, Landmark, and preserve it forever.
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In a quiet residential neighborhood just outside of downtown Chicago, IL, stands a modest family home on the corner of Tripp Avenue and Palmer Street. This house was designed and built by Flora and Elias Disney, Walt and Roy Disney's mother and father. Both Walt and Roy were born in this home and lived there until Walt was four and Roy was twelve years old.
Over the last century, the home has changed hands several times and has been added to and altered significantly. These “renovations” have almost completely covered up the authentic details of the house.
We have already lost too many buildings that were an incredibly important part of Walt Disney’s history.
And that is why we have purchased this house and will restore it to its original state, honoring and preserving the home for generations to come.
Our project is about more than just a restoration. It is also an opportunity to research this period of the Disney family history which has sparked a larger vision for the home beyond the restoration.
Each day, we gain new insights into how and why Walt and Roy became the men they were. We are learning how their childhood, family and parents impacted their lives and laid a foundation that nurtured collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
With our team of project advisors, we are formalizing strategies on how we can empower today’s families to nurture and raise the creative thinkers of tomorrow.
Our dream is that The Walt Disney Birthplace becomes a portal to new approaches in early childhood development and helps to inspire future Walts and Roys.
A Very Brief History Of The House
A carpenter with a growing family, Elias Disney decided to build a home and put down roots in Chicago. He purchased property on the southwest corner of Tripp Avenue on October 31, 1891.
On November 23, 1892, Elias obtained a permit to build a two-story, 18 x 28 foot wood cottage for $800.
Flora, Elias’ wife, drew up the architectural plans and Elias built the house. In early 1893, the Disney family settled into their new home with their two sons: Herbert and Raymond. Shortly thereafter, their third son, Roy, was born on June 24, 1893.
Eight years later, Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901, on the second floor.
And two years after that, on December 6, 1903, the Disneys welcomed their fifth child and first daughter, Ruth.
On February 10, 1906, Elias sold the property to Walter Chamberlain, moving his family to Marceline, Missouri.
In 1991, Chicago attempted to designate the property as a historical landmark, but the owner fought the designation and won, putting the home at risk of demolition.
Today: After years of neglect, the home is purchased with the intent to restore it to its 1901 state. The new owners are working with the City to protect the home forever.
T-SHIRT ADD-ON! (Updated Jan. 2, 2014)
By popular demand, we are making our Collectible T-Shirt (see below) available as an Add-On to any pledge level that does not include it, for an additional $40.00! (Currently, the only levels that do include the shirt reward are the $75 (FOREMAN), $5,000 (ARCHITECT) and $10,000 (RESIDENT) levels.)
Every backer will have our deepest gratitude, because this restoration is meant to be a collaboration and can only happen with your support. Along with our gratitude, every backer will have their name inscribed in the special leather-bound "Restoration Dream Team Charter Member" book, which will be a permanent addition to the house.
Every backer at the $5 level and above will also receive a "Charter Member of the Walt Disney Birthplace Preservation Project" Certificate.
For $5, $10 and $25 level backers, the Certificate will be a high-resolution digital image suitable for desktop publishing reproduction. For the $33 level and above, we will include a printed copy of the certificate with your additional backer rewards.
(Frame not included.)
And here are some of our other rewards:
Our collectible T-shirt was designed by Richard Terpstra, well-known for his beautiful work at disneydesignerland.blogspot.com.
"Key To The House"
This is a bona-fide Victorian-Era door key (contemporary to the year Elias built the house) with a special commemorative tag that will grant the bearer access to one of our group tours of the restored home!
Several pledge levels include tickets to group tours, private hard hat tours of the construction site, and invitations to the Gala Grand Re-Opening Ceremony.
Concept Art Poster by Clara Moon
This 16" x 24" poster features the original concept art for the restoration by artist Clara Moon (www.claramoon.com).
Commemorative Poster by Karen Armitage
This original 27" x 40" poster was created by renowned artist Karen Armitage (www.armitageimages.com) and will be reproduced as a signed, limited-edition lithographic print.
(Frame not included.)
An Actual Piece of the Original House (Only 200 Available!)
This very special limited-edition Walt Disney Birthplace keepsake features an actual cedar shake fragment from the original house, the very wood cut and assembled by Elias Disney himself. Each one-of-a-kind chip is molded into a 4” x 3” x 1” acrylic block.
Custom-Engraved Paver Stone
Become a permanent part of the home with your own dedicated paver stone, engraved with your name placed on the walkway in front of and alongside the house.
Custom Engraved Copper Plaque
Backers at our top two levels, ARCHITECT and RESIDENT, will have their names inscribed on an honorific copper plaque affixed to the exterior of the property.
Here's a brief rundown of our backer levels and their rewards:
The "Digital Architecture Bundle" includes the concept art, architectural blueprints, schematics and our desktop art.
The "Digital Package" includes everything in the "Digital Architectural Bundle" PLUS the Digital Documentary Download.
The home will be “A Living Source of Joy and Inspiration” and will promote the importance of family to nurture creativity, collaboration and innovation in children.
This house is where the Disney story truly begins.
An important facet of this project is to foster ongoing discoveries about the environment and early family life that created these two remarkable individuals.
An in-depth study into Walt and Roy’s early upbringing will generate timeless, beneficial insights for today’s families and beyond:
Helping families to nurture creativity
Helping families to embrace their children’s passions
Helping families to “live their values”
Dina Benadon, Project Director, Property Owner
Born and raised in Los Angeles, where her father founded and built what became one of Hollywood’s first video post-production companies, Dina grew up at his side, gaining first-hand insights into the world of film production.
Dina started her own career at an emerging computer animation company in the early 90s. Encouraged by digital artists and the excitement of new technologies, Dina segued into the Theme Park division where she found herself immersed in the creation of cutting-edge attractions.
There, she met fellow enthusiast Brent Young and in 1997, followed in her father’s footsteps by launching Super 78, their own animation company. Super 78 is a content developer and producer of specialty movies and attractions for theme park rides, family experiences, museums and science centers. She and Brent (now her husband too) live and work in Silverlake and have a three year old son, Truman.
Dina has earned nominations and awards and is an active Board member for the Themed Entertainment Association and the Producers Guild of America- New Media Council, helping to grow membership and foster new talent in both organizations.
Brent Young, Project Director, Property Owner
A native of Chicago himself, Brent moved to Los Angeles in the early 90s, where he worked as an assistant film editor in a growing computer animation company that produced animated movies for theme park attractions.
In 1997, he launched a production company with fellow themed attraction producer, Dina Benadon, whom he later married. Together, they would grow Super 78, their animation studio, into one of the most well-known media production and creative companies in the theme park industry, receiving numerous industry awards and recognition.
Brent is a director, musician and, most passionately, a theme park aficionado who co-hosts “The Season Pass,” a themed entertainment industry-focused iTunes show (now in its sixth year and more popular than ever).
He and his wife live and work in Silverlake, California with their three year old son - around the corner from where Walt and Roy made Mickey Mouse and Snow White and The Seven Dwarves in 1937.
Charles Pipal, AIA - Preservation Architect
Charles Pipal is a practicing architect and professor in the Historic Preservation Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Landscape Architecture and a Master’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with a concentration in historic preservation.
He is a past director of Landmarks Illinois, where he served as chair of the Fund and Easement Committee and currently serves as the Chair of the Riverside Preservation Commission and Vice President of the Pleasant Home Foundation.
Professor Pipal’s particular professional and academic focus has been on the physical documentation and rehabilitation of historic resources.
Tim Samuelson - The Cultural Historian For The City Of Chicago
Tim Samuelson has been the city’s cultural historian for the past ten years, functioning as a one-man office of the Department of Cultural Affairs. His job is that of a spokesperson, consultant, historian and storyteller, a wide-ranging position that requires him “to tell the spirit and the history of Chicago” through exhibits, public programs, and collaboration with other cultural institutions, museums, and governmental agencies.
He answers questions, and he does his best to tell the story: what Chicago “is,” and why it is the way that it is. The city’s buildings are a part of that story, though his job and his interests pull him in every direction.
People who know him and/or have worked with him in the past commonly describe his breadth of knowledge as “encyclopedic.”
Timothy Barton - Zoning and Historic Preservation Consultant
A Chicago native, Timothy Barton is a land use consultant specializing in historic preservation projects. An expert on Chicago history and architecture, he is the former Research Director for the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, a position he held for 11 years, where his work resulted in the landmarking of dozens of properties. These are just a few of the local landmark research projects Timothy oversaw:
• St. James Episcopal Cathedral: 675 N. Wabash Avenue
• Historic Michigan Boulevard District
• Terra Cotta Row: 1048, 1054, 1057 and 1059 W. Oakdale Ave.
• Chicago and North Western Railway Terminal
He is also an expert in local zoning issues and protocol, with a decade’s experience working at the Chicago Department of Planning and Zoning. Finally, Tim also works as a freelance local area researcher through the Chicago History Museum.
Our "Preservation and Interpretation" Advisors
Freelance Writer and Communications Consultant
Steven is a highly experienced creative executive who has worked extensively with The Walt Disney Company. Over the last decade with Disney, he was first Director, then Vice President of Corporate Communications. As part of his responsibilities, he founded and was the head of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club and its signature event D23 Expo: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event.
In 1999, he co-authored the book “Disney: The First 100 Years” with Dave Smith, published by Disney Editions/Disney Publishing. And he is currently finishing a book on the 75-year history of the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank for Disney Editions.
Design Management, Disneyland Park Operations, Employee Training
A strategic thinking executive project producer/coordinator with extensive organizational/project development experience, Pamela also has a background in the performing arts; she spent five years working as a Disneyland AGVA Performer for guest interactions, parades, conventions, and more. And she created the part of “Lil” in the original cast of a new musical by Academy Award winning songwriters, Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman.
Pamela’s production experience began at WED Enterprises, where she coordinated west coast design and construction efforts for the EPCOT Center’s Mexico Pavilion. She continued with a Coordinator/Master Planning position at Disneyland, and eventually became a Design Manager/Producer at Imagineering, initiating concept design programs for major theme park projects worldwide for 13 years.
In 2006, she moved into public relations for the Disneyland Resort, and in 2008, began her current position, where she works with senior executives in the development and implementation of the resort’s vision/mission and resort-wide employee training and development programs.
Independent Entertainment Professional
In 1981, Waynn became the Director of the Cerritos Library, a position he held for the next 25 years. When the library began planning for a major expansion at the turn of the new millennium, Waynn envisioned and created what would become the first “Experience Library.”
Incorporating his insights from working in retail, his careful study of Disney storytelling through immersive environments, and his considerations of “…human nature, Fortune 500 company marketing approaches, trends in the entertainment industry…” and much more, Waynn redefined what a “library” could be.
With state-of-the-art technology, a wide variety of themed spaces, and a complete overhaul of standard library services, the new facility was an instant and enormous success when it debuted on March 16, 2002. It went on to win a prestigious THEA Award in 2003, among many others.
Creative and Technical Show Direction Consultant at Walt Disney Imagineering, Founder and Chief Creative Officer at FAR OUT! Creative Direction
For more than three decades, Rick has been a key creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, helping to design and produce over 25 world-renowned attractions.
In addition, he has been an integral part of various concept development teams for new attractions, entire theme parks and more. He has also produced attractions for museums and educational institutions, including Vancouver's FlyOver Canada and Chicago's Adler Planetarium.
Rick is a Past President of and still serves on the Themed Entertainment Association’s International Board of Directors.
Communications and Public Relations Executive
Heidi worked for The Walt Disney Studios for two decades, starting in 1990 as Director, Publicity, Advertising and Promotions. By 2003, she had moved up to become Sr. Vice President, Global Communications, acting as chief spokesperson for the Studio and responsible for the overall global communication strategies covering motion pictures, music, home entertainment, theatrical productions, as well as new technology, environmental and anti-piracy initiatives.
Starting in 2010, she opened her own communications and public relations firm where she consults on product launch marketing, crisis management, multi-platform content, media training, social media strategy, events, internal communications among other creative and strategic communications initiatives.
Our Budget For The Project
The Walt Disney Birthplace is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with The Walt Disney Company, Disney Enterprises, Inc., or any of its subsidiaries or its affiliates. Reference to Walt Disney and their trademarks is used purely for historical reference and informational purposes.
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With our team of restoration experts and architects in place, and our project budget prepared, we are confident that we are ready to break ground on the restoration, as soon as the funds are in place.
As with any construction/restoration undertaking, there can be unforeseen challenges. First and foremost, weather conditions in the midwest will almost certainly have some impact. But as most of the work will be taking place indoors, we don’t feel that winter weather will create enormous setbacks.
We’ve worked in the theme park and animation industries for more than 20 years and we know a lot of talented and experienced individuals who are interested in supporting us.
We have the skills, connections, community outreach – and most important, the passion – to do it right.
Roy Patrick Disney, Roy O. Disney’s grandson and Walt’s great nephew, has given us his support and is very excited about the project. This is what he said about the project:
"On behalf of the Disney family, we are so pleased to see Walt Disney's historic birthplace and family home being restored to its humble origins in the City of Chicago. The outpouring of support and excitement we've seen from both city officials and Disney fans alike has been simply wonderful, and this is truly a fitting way to honor both Walt and Roy O. Disney, the pioneering brothers who forever changed the face of family entertainment, and, of course, will forever be two of Chicago's most prominent native sons."
The Disney Company is not involved at this point, but we would welcome their participation.
What are the plans for the home after the restoration? Will it be a museum? Or will it remain a private residence?
Our most pressing goal is to save and restore the home and earn it Landmark status. Immediately after completing the landmark designation and restoration, it will remain a private residence. We are still formulating the specifics of our longer-term plans.
Our dream is to turn the property into something really special: an experience that uses media projections, soundscapes, and other immersive technology to allow guests to step back in time and be right there with young Walt, Roy and the whole Disney family.
But we can’t move forward with those bigger plans unless we can get through this first, most important phase.
Upon the completion of the restoration, the only way to gain access to the interior of the home will be through our group tours, private events and our special one-night sleepovers, which will only be available to our Backers at specific pledge levels.
We will not be living in the house during the renovation process as we are permanent residents of Los Angeles, California. But Brent is from Chicago, so we visit often and we will be traveling frequently to the site during construction. And will be in daily contact with our restoration team, who are all Chicago residents. We have the utmost confidence that the restoration, led by Charles Pipal, the project’s preservation architect, will be a complete success, once we begin.
After the renovation, there will be a local caretaker to assist us in the maintenance and security of the home.
We hope that the restoration and celebration of this home will be a source of inspiration for both the Hermosa community and the entire world.
We have been asked if we ever considered moving the restored home to another location – that option was never up for discussion. We want to help tell this first chapter in the Disney Family story as accurately as possible and the Hermosa neighborhood is an integral part of that story. Part of our vision for the project is that today’s Hermosa community, both children and adults, will be able to experience the home and feel a sense of pride that the seeds of one of the world’s greatest creative media empires were planted right there.
Will residents of Hermosa be allowed to visit for free (or at a discounted rate) ¬and will there be some sort of event that will include them?
We would love to have a special event just for the local community, a “housewarming party” for the neighborhood!
We, Dina and Brent, are the legal owners of the house and will remain so for the immediate future.
As soon as we successfully complete this campaign, the earnest work of the restoration can begin. We are targeting December 5th, 2014 for the “Grand Reopening,” so we want to start the restoration as soon as possible.