“Cielo” means heaven in Spanish.
And heaven was how 26-year-old actress Sharon Tate described her sprawling ranch-style home in Benedict Canyon, California in 1969.
She called it her “love house”.
Tragically, for Sharon and her house guests, her beautiful rented home became the scene of one of the most horrific and sensationalized tragedies in Hollywood history. I won’t even get into the gory details of the crime, it has been documented at great lengths on the Internet and TV shows and even movies. Suffice it to say, that if you want to find out more about the crime, Google will be your willing and able guide.
The thing I am interested in is Sharon Tate’s beloved house at 10050 Cielo Drive. Since the August 9th anniversary of that tragic crime is fast approaching, I’ve been scouring the net trying to find as many pictures of the house as I can (and there are many) but a good deal are copyrighted. So I’ve tried to compile some photos of the house that *I think* are in the public domain.
As a housie, who loves vintage homes (and the carefree era of the 1960’s) this home holds a special mystique for me. It does have a tragic echo to it when viewed in photos, in part because of the gruesome events that occurred there, and in part because the house no longer exists.
That’s right, the last house that Sharon Tate lived in was torn down in 1994. The entire property site was scrubbed and a massive new 17,000 square foot Mediterranean-style villa was built on the lot.
It is completely unrecognizable from the “love house” of the 1960’s that Sharon adored.
Still, I appreciate the house for what it was, and I see what Sharon Tate and her husband Roman Polanski saw in the home when they rented it in February of 1969: A beautiful sprawling rancher in a peaceful, hilltop setting.
Here’s the house’s back-story:
The home was originally built in 1942 for a French actress named Michèle Morgan.
The French country style home was designed by architect Robert Byrd.
The house is oriented to the east and sits high on a hillside overlooking Benedict Canyon and west Hollywood.
An aerial view of 10050 Cielo Drive:
The home was long and low and sported natural elements like stone walls, stone fireplace, wood beamed ceiling and many multi-paned windows to take advantage of the view.
10050 Cielo Drive’s living room as it appeared in the 1940’s:
And the living room as it appeared in 1969…
Featuring three bedrooms, four bathrooms plus a loft above the living room AND a guest house, in-ground pool and garage; this home was nestled in well-manicured park-like grounds amidst the blowing pine trees.
The layout was typical of an early ranch-style home: a central public gathering space (living room) and the bedrooms off to left side while the kitchen and dining room were off the opposite side. Just beyond the kitchen was the third bedroom and fourth bathroom which served as the maid’s quarters.
The master bedroom was at the back left corner of the house and had french doors leading out to the pool patio.
By the end of the Second World War, actress Michèle Morgan had returned to France. In 1946 Lillian Gish moved in to 10050 Cielo Drive. The fated house had many notable residents including Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Samantha Eggers, Olivia Hussey and music producer Terry Melcher (who was the son of Doris Day) and Melcher’s girlfriend at the time, Candice Bergen (remember her in Murphy Brown?).
Anyway, when Melcher and Bergen broke-up in early 1969, they moved out and went their separate ways and 10050 Cielo Drive was looking for new tenants.
Enter famed director Roman Polanski and his 26 year-old pregnant wife Sharon Tate.
They were looking for a place to rent and a realtor showed Sharon 10050 Cielo Drive in February of 1969. Sharon instantly knew that this was the home where she wanted to “nest” and welcome her baby boy in August.
Sharon and Roman rented the house from owner Rudi Altobelli at the end of February 1969.
On the night of August 9, 1969, the once peaceful home became the scene of the terrible murders of Sharon Tate, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring and Steven Parent at the hands of a depraved handful of misfits who called themselves the “Manson Family”.
The home’s owner – Rudi Altobelli – moved into the house not long after the crime scene investigation wrapped up and lived there for the next 20 years.
During an interview on ABC’s show “20/20”, he said that while living there, he felt “safe, secure, love and beauty.” He sold the property for 1.6 million dollars.
– from: wikipedia.org
The last person to actually reside at the rancher at 10050 Cielo Drive was Trent Reznor of the group Nine Inch Nails. He lived and recorded music there in the early 1990’s but the bad history of the house apparently began to eat at his conscience and he subsequently moved out by December 0f 1993.
The home was sold in 1994 and the new owner had the ranch house completely demolished and the entire site scrubbed clean of any original greenery. In its place, a massive new Mediterranean style mansion was built and the street address was changed to 10066 Cielo Drive.
Nothing remains of the rustic 1942 ranch house and its stunning park-like grounds. The whole site is pretty much concreted-over today.
As a vintage house-lover, the fate of 10050 Ceilo Drive makes me very sad.
On the one hand, I understand why the new owners would want to try to erase or clean-up the bad history that occurred there.
But on the other hand, the loss of the house feels like a disservice to the memory of Sharon Tate – after all, it was her love house, the house where she wanted to welcome and raise her baby boy.
But there’s no undoing of what’s been done.
I guess the upside (if there is one) is that the former house can no longer be a destination for Manson yahoos and morbid lookiloos seeking out the crime scene.
Rather, the house now rests in eternal peace with the people who died there.
For further reading on 10050 Cielo Drive, see the following links:
Like exploring true crime houses?
Check out this post I did on the Charles Lindbergh kidnapping house in New Jersey.
And this post about the Villisca Iowa Ax Murder House.