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Exclusive: The $90 Million Carolwood Estate Once Owned By Walt Disney

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In 1949 Lillian Disney telephoned Harold Janss about purchasing a parcel of property in his new subdivision. Janss, building upon the work of his father-in-law Arthur Letts Sr., was developing a large tract of Los Angeles land called Holmby Hills. Soon after, Lillian and her  Hollywood husband Walt acquired a parcel on Carolwood Drive and built their dream home.
In the new estate’s backyard Walt Disney built a one-eighth-scale steam railroad, inspired by the ones his company’s animators (Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnston) had implemented on their own properties. He erected a standalone barn housing a control room and carved out a half-mile worth of track including overpasses, a 46-foot-long trestle and an s-shaped subterranean tunnel hidden underneath his wife’s flower beds. The train would famously come to be known as the Carolwood Pacific Railroad and it would serve as part of the inspiration to create Disneyland, the first of his eponymous theme parks.
Now, more than six decades after the Disney family laid claim to the property, the remnants of that Carolwood Pacific Railroad are up for grabs. The former Disney estate, better known now as the Carolwood Estate, is on the market. The official asking price: $90 million.
The Carolwood Estate’s current owner is Gabriel Brener, chief executive of private investment firm Brener International Group and co-owner of the Houston Dynamo soccer team. He  purchased the property from the Disney estate for $8.45 million in 1998, a year after Lillian Disney’s death. Brener razed the original house, reportedly replete with asbestos, and erected a brand new 35,000-square foot  mansion in 2001. He also acquired the lot next door, adding more acreage.

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