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Renovations For Walt Disney’s Birth Home In Hermosa Back On Track After Failed Kickstarter

When a California couple and owners of Super78 Media Studios purchased the birth home of Walt Disney on Chicago’s Northwest Side in June 2013, it was their hope to begin restoration in spring 2014.

The plan was to have the home turned into a historic museum and creative arts center for youth in the neighborhood by Walt Disney’s birthday, according to the Huffington Post, but due to funding, those plans have stalled.

Instead of commemorating Walt Disney’s birthday by opening the home as a historic museum on Dec. 5 as originally planned, the new owners of the property and their restoration team will have a candle lighting ceremony outside the home following a youth theater presentation of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” said Todd Regan, executive director of the Center for Early Childhood Creativity and Innovation at the Walt Disney Birthplace.

The original goal was to raise money through a fundraising campaign earlier in the year, Regan said. And because not enough money was raised to begin restoration of the home where Walt Disney and his family lived from 1892 to 1906 at 2156 N. Tripp Ave., the home won’t be completed by Disney’s birthday Friday, Regan said.

Photo By Werner Weiss, 2013 via www.yesterland.com
Photo By Werner Weiss, 2013 via www.yesterland.com

Regan is a Disney historian and longtime friend of the new owners, Dina Benadon and Brent Young.

They hired him to head the restoration project in July after they had trouble raising funds, he said.

“When the kickstarter failed, I felt terrible for them because I knew they’d invested a lot of money into the project,” Regan said. “And I made some suggestions to them and offered to run a fundraiser.”

A total of $40,000 was needed to complete phase one of the restoration project, Regan said. This first phase will involve replacing the current windows with historic Victorian style windows, repair wood siding and provide paint that lasts through harsh Chicago winters, he said.

A total of $49,404 in donations has been raised since Regan started on the project, which is over the projected amount needed for phase one to be completed, according to Start Some Good.

With those funds raised, Regan said phase one should be completed by the end of this month. Phase two of the restoration project will likely start in the spring, Regan said. This will involve the beatification of the home.

The front porch will be reinstalled, the doors and hardware on the home will be replaced, a fence will be added around the property and landscaping will be done. With these changes, the complete outside of the home will be done by summer, he said. The interior of the home won’t be touched until more funds are raised, Regan said, and it will be restored to how it would have looked when Walt Disney was born in 1901.

“That’s a tremendous undertaking,” Regan said.

And on this new time frame, Regan said the home probably won’t be completed for nearly two years. Regan estimates $1 million will need to be raised to complete the entire house, he said.

Aside from being used as a museum and art center for youth, this project serves an even bigger purpose in the neighborhood, Regan said.

“It is a big inspiration for kids in the neighborhood,” he said. “If Walt Disney could come out of this neighborhood and become internationally known, anybody can. You just have to have the right skills and talents and follow your dreams.”

Vanessa Torres, communication director at The Miracle Center, a youth center for arts and education in Logan Square located just three blocks from the home, said many students in the program had no idea Walt Disney was born in their own largely Hispanic neighborhood.

“I think it’s inspiring because it shows that anything is possible,” Torres said. “He lived right there on the corner… we can call it the corner of creativity and innovation, where dreams really happen.”

Ald. Rey Colon (35th) said he became involved with the Walt Disney Birth home project after the remapping of wards added parts of Hermosa to the 35th Ward.

Although the remapping won’t take effect until next year, Colon said being involved in this process has been a great honor and will benefit the neighborhood positively.

“It’s not a gentrified neighborhood, and I think that one of the things that this group is very sensitive to is making sure that they’re keeping that balance in the neighborhood,” Colon said. “Walt Disney was born in a humble house, and this is a humble neighborhood. If anything, they’re looking to complement what’s already in place in the neighborhood,” he said.