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Chicago declares ‘Walt Disney Day,’ Disney Birthplace Project to restore home

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The city of Chicago officially proclaimed Dec. 5, 2013 to be “Walt Disney Day,” celebrating what would be Walt Disney’s 112th birthday by kicking off an ambitious project: the restoration and preservation of Walt’s and Roy O. Disney’s birthplace home. Plans are for the home, located at 2156 North Tripp Ave. on Chicago’s Northwest Side, to be restored as a historic site and private museum.

Alderman Rey Colon, of Chicago’s 35th Ward, and Walt’s great nephew Roy Patrick Disney were present at the press conference that took place at the historic site. Also present were new homeowners Brent Young and Dina Benadon, who bought the house last spring. The couple have started the year-long process of restoring the home to its 1901 state, the year Walt was born. To do so, they have launched The Disney Birthplace Preservation Project.

To mark the occasion, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed it “Walt Disney Day” in Chicago, while local bakery TipsyCake supplied a special birthday cake – one decorated to look like the house did in1901. Fourth-grade students from William Nixon Elementary School, which is within walking distance of the house, sang "Happy Birthday" to Walt as the cake was cut.

"On behalf of the Disney family, we are so pleased to see Walt Disney's historic birthplace and family home being restored to its humble origins in the City of Chicago," said Roy P. Disney, grandson to Roy O. Disney and Walt's great nephew, in a media statement. "The outpouring of support and excitement we've seen from both city officials and Disney fans alike has been simply wonderful, and this is truly a fitting way to honor both Walt and Roy O. Disney, the pioneering brothers who forever changed the face of family entertainment, and, of course, will forever be two of Chicago's most prominent native sons."

"I am honored to work with the Mayor's Office in declaring December 5, 2013 as 'Walt Disney Day' in the City of Chicago," said Colon. "Walt Disney's epic contributions to American entertainment and our personal lives will be memorialized by the historic restoration and designation of Walt Disney's birthplace."

In addition to Young, Benadon and Colon, today’s “Walt Disney Day” press conference was also attended by Betsy Steinberg, Director of the Illinois Film Office; Preservation Architect Charles Pipal; Chicago Cultural Historian Tim Samuelson; and Zoning Historic Preservation Consultant Timothy Barton.

The Disney Birthplace Preservation Project launches Kickstarter campaign

Young and Benadon credit the Disney family with the inspiration for their careers and plans for the house. They have both worked in the theme-park industry for over 20 years, and together own the Super 78 animation company. Last spring, the purchased the birthplace of Walt and Roy, claiming it is their way to give back and protect the site where Walt and Roy lived in their early years. Thus, The Disney Birthplace Project was born.

The 1893 home was constructed by Walt and Roy’s father Elias and was designed by their mother Flora. Within the neighborhood, Elias built two other homes as well as the St. Paul Congregational Church. The family lived at the house until 1906. "It's an amazing story that keeps unfolding and every day we learn something new," Benadon said. "Our dream is that the home will serve as a place to inspire creativity in our children for generations to come."

Young, a Chicago native, noted that in financing The Disney Birthday Project, "Our vision has always been to reach out to the community the Disney brothers have touched and the perfect mechanism for this was through Kickstarter. In addition to crowd funding, we hope to raise financing through the private sector and potential sponsorships."

Following its restoration, the Chicago house will operate as a historical site, private museum, and a community resource that reflects The Disney Birthplace Preservation Project’s mission of enhancing and exploring childhood creativity. The project is not affiliated, associated with, endorsed, or connected with The Walt Disney Company.

To learn more about the project or how to participate, visit The Disney Birthplace Preservation Project.

Kungaloosh! Put on your set of ears and join me in stalking the Mouse. Read more of my Disney Travel Examiner articles or sign up for a free subscription.

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