Walt Disney's Chicago Birthplace Might Finally Become a Museum

The Chicago house where Walt Disney was born may soon become a museum, thanks to some theme park ride designers in Los Angeles. After years of debate in Chicago over what to do with the property, a married couple that owns a design studio in L.A. has just purchased the house for $173,000. They hope to convert the home into a privately run museum, which will "authentically recreate the Disney household life experience."

But apparently that's going to take some work. According to the New York Times, the couple will launch a Kickstarter campaign tomorrow (the 112th anniversary of Walt's birth) with a goal of at least $500,000 to pay for turning the house into a museum. Since the couple has yet to contact the famously litigious Disney company, they have quite an uphill battle ahead of them. Good luck slapping the name "Disney" on virtually anything and not getting sued into oblivion.

Considering the house's amazing origins, it seems a bit curious that the Disney company never bought up the house for themselves.

In 1890 Walt Disney's father, Elias Disney, moved with his family to Chicago hoping to find work as a carpenter. Walt wasn't born yet, and Elias earned just a dollar a day helping to build the famed White City for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair.

According to Neal Gabler's 2006 biography of Walt Disney, Elias had saved enough money by 1892 to buy a $700 plot of land. The following year Elias would start building the two-story house at 1249 Tripp Avenue (now known as 2156 North Tripp Avenue). Walt Disney was born in the house on December 5, 1901.

At the time it was built, the sparse neighborhood had just two paved roads—a far cry from the relatively dense neighborhood it is today. You can see a Google Streetview screenshot of the house below.

Walt Disney's Chicago Birthplace Might Finally Become a Museum

Seeing what the house actually looks like today (in contrast with the rendering above) raises quite a few more questions. The city has previously voted against giving the house landmark status, and one imagines that opening a museum in a residential area would present quite a nasty parking situation.

While it seems admirable to want to turn such a cool piece of American real estate into a museum, potential crowdfund supporters beware: even if the couple raises their half a million dollars, this museum is far from a done deal.

The couple that now owns the property may be taking the often misattributed Disney phrase "If you can dream it, you can do it" to heart. But only time (and heaps upon heaps of money, along with a small army of lawyers) will tell if this dream can really become a reality. [New York Times]


Images: (Top Left) Rendering of the proposed private museum via the New York Times; (Top Right) Photograph of Walt Disney's parents Flora and Elias circa 1913, scanned from the book Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler; (Bottom) Google Streetview screenshot