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LOOK: Walt Disney’s childhood home opens doors to public

By Ayanna Zoleta Published Oct 17, 2023 3:58 pm

You can now literally step into the world of Walt Disney!

The American animator’s childhood home in Chicago has opened its doors to the public for the first time, welcoming tourists last Oct. 14 and 15. This is part of the Chicago Architecture Center’s free annual Open House Chicago Festival, which pays homage to the significant architecture of the city.

Prior to opening to the public, the two-story house has been at the center of a ten-year restoration project.   

The organizers aspire that witnessing the modest origins of Walt, whose company is celebrating 100 years this 2023, will motivate young individuals to pursue their dreams and make a positive impact on the world.  

"Walt Disney was an example that, you know, if you come from humble beginnings, if you work hard, you follow your dreams. You could change the world," said Rey Colon, Walt Disney Birthplace project director. 

The house was built out of the teamwork of Walt’s parents. His father, Elias, built the Hermosa house for just $800 while his mother, Flora drew up the architectural plans, according to the Walt Disney Birthplace Restoration website.    

The website stated that Elias “decided to build a home and put down roots in Chicago.”  

The line to Walt Disney's house in Chicago.

Upon completing the house in 1901, the Disneys moved in with their two sons, Herbert and Raymond. Walt—legally known as Walter Elias Disney—on the other hand, was born on the second floor of the home on Dec. 5, 1901.   

The filmmaker grew up in the Chicago house until they sold the property in 1906 to Walter Chamberlain and moved to Marceline, Missouri.  

Aside from the house, there are also memorabilia displayed in the tourist attraction, including photos of the filmmaker in his childhood.

According to the Walt Disney Birthplace Restoration website, the city of Chicago made an effort to designate the property as a historical landmark in 1991. Unfortunately, the homeowner at that time opposed the designation and successfully prevented it, thus placing the home in jeopardy of potential demolition.  

Presently, the current homeowners are collaborating with the City to safeguard the residence and undertake its restoration to its original 1901 condition.