In Chicago’s Hermosa neighborhood, a humble home stands as a beacon of inspiration to the young and young at heart. 2156 N. Tripp Ave is now known as The Walt Disney Birthplace. A house designed by Flora Disney, built by Elias in 1893, and welcomed the births Roy and Walt in the upstairs bedroom.
As years passed and owners came and went, many changes were made to the house, and in more recent years it was subject to neglect. Enter Dina Benadon and Brent Young, current owners and restoration project directors. They along with their team are slowly restoring the home to the way Walt would have remembered it.
The process is like CSI work, peeling back layers to uncover structural clues. The team has been able to discover where wall would have been, colors of original flooring and walls, and even where a wood-burning stove would have been. It’s painstaking work, but as Walt once said “Dog it, and work at it until it’s done right.”
So exactly how will this house inspire others? The Walt Disney Birthplace will be more than a museum. It will have interactive, hands-on displays that will bring sights, sounds, and even smells to life. Visitors will be immersed in what life was like for Walt as a child.
The Center for Early Childhood Creativity and Innovation (CECCI) will also be part of the Walt Disney Birthplace.
“The 1,200 square foot house will become much more than an arts center or a museum. It will be an experiential learning site that inspires creativity, and it will deliver this uplifting message: if Walt Disney could rise from such humble beginnings to become one of our greatest visionaries, then true creative genius can come from anywhere, at any time. It will inspire future generations in ways we can only begin to imagine.”
For the second year in a row, the community was invited to a free event outside the Walt Disney Birthplace called Creativity Days. The street was lined with arts and crafts for the children, music and hula hoops, food trucks, a bike giveaway, and of course, sidewalk chalk. At the heart of the event stands the Creativi-Tree, which was planted last year at the inaugural Creativity Days. The children were invited to paint rocks to place around the bottom, and write their hope and dreams on ribbons that were then tied to the tree. I can’t help but feel Walt was smiling down on these kids.
New to the event this year was a limited number of tours inside the house. It has been a little over a year since I had a look inside with the folks from D23, so we were not about to pass up the chance to see the changes. While there is still a long way to go, the progress is amazing. Walking through the rooms where Walt and Roy grew up, standing in the tiny bedroom they shared, you can almost feel their amazing bond.
An unexpected surprise was getting to tour with two of the original Mouseketeers, Sharon and Bobby. They were in town to do a reunion show with other original Mouseketeers as part of the Walt Disney Birthplace fundraiser. They added extra insight to stories of Walt and Roy, and were the kindest people you ever wanted to meet. Just what you would expect of Mouseketeers.
Before exiting the house, we were invited to sign a beam that will be walled up in the coming weeks. It makes my heart happy knowing we are now a small part of Walt’s house.
Here’s a quick look around the second floor of the house:
To get an idea of just how far this project has come, click here for the article and pictures from the first tour, hosted by D23, over a year ago. You can keep up to date with the restoration project, learn more about the team, or help make this vision a reality through donation by visiting The Walt Disney Birthplace. Most importantly, make sure to clear the last weekend in June for the 3rd annual Creativity Days and the next amazing fundraiser. This year’s fundraiser showcased an original Mouseketeer reunion show, and last year’s was Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix. No matter what they dream up for next year, it will be a weekend you don’t want to miss!
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