New owners have requested a demolition permit for Walt Disney’s first home in California. The well-preserved 1914 Craftsman bungalow at 4406 Kingswell Avenue in Los Feliz belonged to Walt’s aunt Charlotte and uncle Robert Disney, who in July of 1923 invited their young nephew to board in their home (at a rate of $5 per week) as he pursued his dream of becoming a film director. The 2-bedroom, 1458 square-foot home would stay in the Disney family for 30 years. Charlotte moved next door in 1955, spending five decades on Kingswell. When it was sold again in 1977 the owners described it as having “lots of wood trim, fireplace & cheery breakfast room.” The home exhibits tremendous architectural integrity, with the same porch, gables, shingles, windows, and beveled glass door that greeted 22-year-old Walt Disney.
According to the Los Angeles County Assessor the property was sold two months ago to Sang Ho and Krystal Yoo of Studio City, who submitted plans on Friday for a new 2-story, 1 or 2-family home they plan to build on the site. In November, the City of Los Angeles Survey L.A. program declared the property eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for its role as Walt Disney’s first studio in California. The same city planning department is now considering issuing a permit for its destruction.
Walt’s older brother Roy was the first to move from the family home in Kansas City when he was sent to the Veterans Hospital in Westwood for treatment of tuberculosis. Walt followed him out west looking for work in the nascent film industry. Uncle Robert’s house was halfway between the comedy studios of Mack Sennett in Echo Park and Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, where Walt landed a job as an extra soon after he arrived. He printed up cards identifying him as the Kansas City representative for Universal and Selznick Pictures but was unable to land work at a studio.
It wasn’t long before Robert started nagging Walt about his unemployed status and brother Roy suggested he get back into the cartoon business he left back home. Walt set up a makeshift studio in the garage behind the Kingswell house, creating an animation stand in the (since relocated) garage from wooden crates, scrap lumber, and a $500 loan from his uncle. The Disney Brothers studio was born. “The making of these new cartoons necessitates being located in a production center,” he wrote New York distributor Margaret Winkler. “That I may engage trained talent for my casts, and be within reach of the right facilities for producing.” She mailed a check and the boys were in business. Walt and Roy soon moved into a rental across from their uncle and soon took over the backroom of a real estate office on the same street. Their first film made in L.A., Alice’s Day at Sea, was completed just before Christmas of 1923.
The Disneys stayed in Los Feliz for decades. On April 11, 1925 Roy and Edna Disney were married at the Kingswell Avenue home of Robert and Charlotte – the family was captured having fun on the lawn in these delightful home movies. The site of the Disney studio on Hyperion is a city monument. Landmarks of Los Feliz, Atwater, and Silver Lake are sprinkled throughout Disney’s California Adventure theme park in Anaheim.
The Kingswell house is the epicenter of Walt’s own California adventure. If Roy had not been sent to Westwood… if Robert Disney hadn’t offered the young filmmaker a home, perhaps Walt would have gone back to the midwest and disappeared into obscurity.