Disneyland train station inspires 'fantasy house'

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 1:24 PM

Paul Gores

MILWAUKEE - If a house under construction in Milwaukee seems to resemble the Victorian train station at Disneyland, that's no coincidence.

That's just Tom Hignite doing what he loves to do.

Hignite, the owner of Miracle Homes, is putting up a house that looks like the famous train station - one of the California theme park's most recognizable buildings because it's in the background of the often-photographed flower display of Mickey Mouse.

Hignite, whose past residential creations have included features such as movie-themed rooms and an elaborate home theater, said it's his creative side at work.

Last year, he made national headlines by building what he called the "Mi-Pad" - a 1,000-square-foot house with three bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms and a fireplace. The all-new homes were priced in the $89,000-to-$150,000 range and intended to compete with the glut of foreclosed homes on the market.

"I love to do things that are just different," said Hignite, who started Miracle Homes in 1993. "I'd be bored if I just built normal houses all day long, and we do build enough of those. It's something that separates us, and I like to see something unusual happen."

Hignite said the idea for the Disneyland train station look-alike came to him while watching an episode of the old "Leave it to Beaver" television show. He said he liked the house where TV's Cleaver family lived.

"I know it's just a Hollywood set, but I wondered, 'Did somebody ever build that house?' " Hignite said.

He started thinking about other iconic houses, such as those in the movies "Home Alone" and "A Christmas Story." But because he is a huge Disney fan, he quickly considered whether any memorable buildings at its theme parks would make for an eye-catching house. A castle was out of the question, but not the train station.

As is always the case with Hignite, when he builds a special house, the creativity doesn't stop at the front door.

The finished basement rec room will include a theme park-like track, which guides a hand-powered "train" for children around the room, he said. It will pass areas saluting Disney movies such as "The Lion King" and "The Little Mermaid," he said.

The children's bedrooms are in a loft over a craft area that he plans to equip with a miniature theme park.

There are multiple built-in doghouses inside the home, too.

"We started that concept with a small arched dog area in a house, and we put a little stuffed animal in there," Hignite said. "And people just really lighted up to the idea. People said, 'My dog likes to sleep in my bedroom,' and, 'My dog likes to sleep in my kid's bed.' So now we're playing with arched openings and carpeting - or putting vinyl inside for easy cleaning - and the dog can have a place to go, or the cat."

The house also includes a lie-down shower, a touch of luxury that he thinks may be the first of its kind. It allows a person to lie down on an elevated, cushioned platform in the shower stall and relax while watching a 32-inch TV and being sprayed by up to four shower heads. He said normal shower stalls, because they require the bather to stand, don't really result in the best relaxation.

"If I could just figure a place to put a small refrigerator in there, I'd never have to leave this area of the house," he joked.

Hignite calls the Disneyland train station house on Milwaukee's northwest side the "Wisconsin Fantasy House 2012." He said he expects to put it up for sale in the price range of $350,000 to $380,000.

The exterior of the house is a month or so away from completion, and the inside at least two months. He plans to have it ready as part of his company's Miracle Tour of Homes event in August.

Although this year's Miracle Homes fantasy house isn't even finished yet, Hignite said he's already considering what to do in 2013.

"I'm thinking, 'What building can we build that's going to be something special?' " Hignite said. "And actually, the 'Home Alone' house is on our radar screen."

)2012 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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