The mystery surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s death will probably never be solved. (Murder? Suicide? Accidental overdose?) But this is the house in which she was found dead at the age of 36 in August of 1962 - her very first and very last home.
1962 photo of Marilyn Monroe in her home:
It is ironic that she died in this humble Spanish style bungalow because it was reportedly the only place where Marilyn ever felt safe and secure. Her whole life involved longing for the home she never had as an orphaned, nomadic child. She had barely lived in this house for 6 months before her death, but how she was fond of her little hacienda.
Marilyn’s last home is located in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles - more specifically in the “Helena’s” which is an early 20th century subdivision of homes on miniature cul-de-sacs. I was there recently during my Epic Road Trip and, being House Crazy Sarah, I couldn’t help but become one of those pesky Marilyn house stalkers.
Driving up the cul-de-sac feels like driving in a tight back alley…
There is no front curb view of the houses - they are all crammed onto their lots surrounded tightly by other houses, walls, gates and shrubbery.
Here’s an aerial view to give you a perspective of 12305 5th Helena Drive, Brentwood, California:
Marilyn Monroe’s former house is the red-roofed one-story in the center with the pool.
Here’s a direct view from above:
There is not a whole lot that the public can see of Marilyn’s former home; all that is visible from the cul-de-sac is the privacy gate. It made for a very discreet and peaceful retreat for one of America’s most famous sex symbols.
This was what the house looked like in 1962 from the yard beyond the pool:
And here is the front gate the day after Marilyn died – with police, reporters and a concerned neighbor:
Marilyn herself purchased the antique wooden gate because she appreciated its Spanish Colonial design.
On my recent visit to the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, I snapped some pictures of what the gate looks like today:
The scalloped edged gate has since been replaced with a straight edge design.
There are no longer any house numbers posted at the gate of 12305 5th Helena Drive because owners (present and past) were sick of leering Marilyn fans and morbid house-peepers like me.
They were trying to thwart the efforts of nosey folks from invading their privacy; like this shot that I made Lupe take over the gate:
To the right you get just a peek of the back end and back door of Marilyn’s white stucco home.
To the left is the matching garage:
As I post these pictures, I do sincerely feel guilty about intruding on someone’s private space.
But the curiosity surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s former home runs deep in me and in many others, as evident in the sheer number of webpages and blog posts devoted to Marilyn Monroe’s last house.
12305 5th Helena Drive was up for sale in recent years. The listing was widely publicized in 2010 and the home very quickly sold (over the asking price) for $3,850,000. The home again quietly sold in November of 2012 for $5,100,000. Obviously, the magical allure of Marilyn Monroe’s former house trumps the shaky real estate market.
The clay tile-roofed house was built in 1929 for a film studio accountant. Per the listing: it still features the “thick walls, traditional casement windows, polished concrete and terra-cotta tile floors, original wood beamed ceilings and period hardware & tiles”.
This is how Marilyn’s house appeared in 1962 after her death when her furniture had been removed…
Today, the charming home has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms plus a family room and pool-side game room. But when Marilyn purchased it, the house had only 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a detached guest house.
Keep in mind that Marilyn’s time here was brief: she purchased the home in 1961 and spent the next few months having renovations done. She didn’t actually move into the house until March of 1962 and she was found dead in her bedroom in the early morning hours of August 5, 1962. The renovations were not even fully completed when she died - a portion of her furniture not even unpacked from crates.
Here is how the home’s interior looked in the 2010 listing photos:
Marilyn was inspired to buy her own home at the urging of her therapist Dr. Ralph Greenson [who would later be the one to discover her lifeless body] in order to put done some roots and to secure her own sacred spot in the world.
According to the fun website I Am Not a Stalker,
The Spanish style home on Fifth Helena Drive fit the bill, as it looked very similar to Dr. Greenson’s home and was located only a few short miles away … Marilyn actually cried while signing the final papers as she said she never imagined she would be purchasing a home alone.
But by all accounts, Marilyn was utterly enchanted with her vintage hacienda. She even made an enthusiastic trip to Mexico earlier in 1962 to hand-pick authentic Mexican furniture, art, tapestries and tiles for her home.
This is how the living room appeared when Marilyn lived there in 1962:
The home was modest at just over 2,000 square feet and the décor when Marilyn lived there was not at all ostentatious. Rather, she maintained it in a rustic Spanish Colonial style.
Marilyn reportedly paid all of $77,500 for this one-story white stucco home, and while that was a respectable sum by early 1960′s standards, it was not at all a luxury estate. Marilyn did not have enough cash on hand to buy the home outright so she had to take out a mortgage with a downpayment of $42,500. We know that her loan payments were $320 a month.
Although many of the home’s architectural features remain intact today (such as the door arches, ceiling beams, some windows and some of the flooring), the kitchen and bathroom are almost unrecognizable from Marilyn’s days.
Kitchen in 2010 listing photos:
Here’s how the kitchen looked when Marilyn lived there in 1962:
Notice the blue and white tile that Marilyn picked out on her trip to Mexico and had installed in her kitchen, pantry and bathrooms.
In a sun-room off the dining room, windows and doors open up to the lush green yard in which Marilyn herself had planted a herb garden, lemon trees and other flowering plants…
One of the bathrooms:
Historic photo of the same bathroom as it appeared in 1962:
When Marilyn moved in, she took the large mater suite, and gave the second bedroom to her live-in house-keeper Eunice Murray.
The smallest of the three bedrooms was used as a telephone and dressing room. (source)
Police investigation photo of Marilyn’s room the day she died, August 1962:
For a very detailed look at the bedroom where Marilyn’s body was found, past and present see The Marilyn Monroe Collection.
So what happened to the house after Marilyn passed away?
It is widely reported that on the day after Ms. Monroe died, there were at least 6 competing purchase offers made on her house.
According to author Gary Vitacco-Robles who literally wrote *THE BOOK* on Marilyn’s former Brentwood home,
On the day of Marilyn’s death, the Nunez family placed a sales contract on the house with their realtor; about six other realtors had also sold the house on the same day. While the estate remained in probate, a bidding war ensued, resulting in legal intervention. A judge ruled that the property would be sold at a purchase price 10% over the highest bid. In September 1963, the Nunez family became the owners & purchased many of the home’s contents including Marilyn’s Hoover vacuum cleaner. In 1997, they auctioned many of Marilyn’s furnishings and possessions.
Furniture that was in Marilyn’s house at the time of her death is still very valuable in the celebrity auction world….
That is the actual chair that Marilyn used in her last photo shoot at her Brentwood home. It sold at auction in 2012 for $28,000.
But there are still some lasting traces of Marilyn on the property…
Above is a photo of the tiles on Marilyn’s front door threshold which bore the Latin inscription “Cursum Perfico”. Ironically, the translation in English is: the journey ends here.
It is said that Marilyn was very fond of the motto on the coat of arms, even quoting it when she spoke about her home - a sad foreshadowing of her sudden death.
No matter how many times the quaint Spanish bungalow in Brentwood is bought and sold, it will always be known as the house where Marilyn Monroe lived, and died.
*** For any Marilyn fans who want further details and analysis of Ms. Monroe’s former home, I highly recommend the book Cursum Perficio: Marilyn Monroe’s Brentwood Hacienda by: Gary Vittaco- Robles.
Check out Gary’s website here.
Finally, here’s a great YouTube compilation of photos (new and old) of Marilyn’s home: