Jason Cochran

Stuff you never knew you never knew

In July 1923, young Walt Disney arrived in Los Angeles and moved into this little Craftsman home, 4406 Kingswell Ave. His uncle and aunt lived there and charged him $5 a week for room and board. The Disney studio really began in the garage out back, the only work space he could afford.

It’s not often remarked that this modest house was just one block west of the famous Vitagraph film studio—on the left in the picture below, you can see a yellow building on its lot—which must have thrilled and frustrated the young man who was so desperate to break into the business that he paid his uncle to slave away in a hot shed.

Disney loved the neighborhood, Los Feliz, and he moved at least four more times in the same area before his status earned him a spread near Beverly Hills. Earlier this year, this house was sold. It was a private sale; it never went on the market, and the buyers had no idea about its importance to American cultural history; the previous owner has been ill and had resorted to renting it.

That’s why it took everyone by surprise when a demolition permit was granted for this coming November. After all, only last year it was declared eligible for landmark status. Preservationists are scrambling. Besides appealing to the new owners’ better (or mercenary) nature, one option is to dismantle it and move it to a museum. Or, given its stature in pop culture, somehow buy it back as a tourist attraction; had the public known it was for sale, that’s what would have happened.

Perhaps the home’s benefactor will be, ironically, the former Vitagraph Studios that tempted a nobody named Walt Disney from behind its gate at the end of his street. That studio, the one forbidden to young Disney, is still working. It’s now known as Prospect Studios. And its owner is called The Walt Disney Company.

Dreams do come true, and sometimes wilder than anyone could have imagined them, but sometimes they have to lay dormant—or get left behind, or rot, or even be given to someone else—for a long time before they can.

Walt Disney home Kingswell, Los Angeles

Walt Disney’s first home in Los Angeles. He rented the shed in the back yard. Glamour!

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