Chicago: Where It All Began For Walt Disney
Walt Disney Birthplace Museum Opens in Chicago
How cool is that?! You may now visit Walt Disney’s birthplace; the same place where Roy Disney spent the first 13 years of his life – in Chicago.
Walt Was Born In Chicago
It’s astonishing to learn how few people know that one of the 20th century’s most influential Americans was born in Chicago. A new museum is out to change that — and turn an unassuming home on a quiet street in the Hermosa neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest side into a bucket-list destination for Disney fans across the globe.
Walter Elias Disney was born on Dec. 5, 1901, on the second floor of the home that now stands at 2156 N. Tripp Ave (the address has changed over time). Elias Disney, Walt’s father, and a carpenter purchased the property on Oct. 31, 1891, and built a home there for his growing family. Elias, his wife Flora, and their two children, Herbert and Raymond, moved into the home in 1893. Their third son, Roy, was born soon thereafter, on June 24, 1893. Two years after Walt’s birth, Walter and Flora welcomed their fifth child, Ruth, on Dec. 6, 1903.
The extraordinary significance of this home, where the Disney family lived from 1893 until 1906 when they moved to Marceline, Missouri, cannot be understated. Three of the five children were born here, and this was the place in which the Disneys spent the most time together as a family of seven.
Sitting as I am, not 30-miles from the birthplace of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Brookline, Mass. (the president lived there for 10 years), I know and understand the importance of visiting a place of beginning; children, in particular, need to see where things started. And now, kids, Disney fans, history buffs, and the merely curious can see where it began for Walter Elias Disney.
Or, make that Elias Disney.
The House The Elias Built
The fact that Elias Disney built this home with his own hands made it even more imperative to the restoration team, led by preservation architect Charlie Pipal with the help of Chicago historian Tim Samuelson, to salvage and restore every original component possible, from floorboards to siding. Pipal, an adjunct professor in the Historic Preservation Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, even commissioned a forensic analysis of the home’s paint layers to determine the original colors the home would have been when the Disney family lived there.
Today, the structural restoration to the original portion of the home occupied by the Disney family (a later addition to the back of the home will be utilized for museum operations) is complete. Passersby can marvel at the sparkling new paint job, beautiful porch, and manicured lawn and garden…
When the museum opens its doors to the public, guests will cross the threshold and feel like they’ve stepped straight into the foyer of the Disney family’s home in turn-of-the-century Chicago. They’ll smell dinner cooking in the kitchen, hear the sounds of Walt and Roy playing and laughing in their bedroom upstairs, and get to explore the home, peeking in furniture drawers and poking their heads around corners to discover magical surprises and high-tech interactive elements that promise to deliver a truly transportive experience.