The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted unanimously to declare the property where the star lived and died a historic cultural monument
Marilyn Monroe's former home is safe from demolition for the foreseeable future following a hearing in which the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted to declare the property — which had been set to be demolished by its new owners — a historic cultural monument.
The commission voted unanimously on Thursday to designate Monroe's home, located at 12305 W. 5th Helena Drive, a historic property, with commissioners noting that although Monroe only lived at the property for a few months, it was the only home the Hollywood icon ever purchased herself. It's also the home where she tragically died at the age of 36 in 1962,
However, the house's future isn't entirely secured.
In Los Angeles, designation as a Historic-Cultural Monument "does not guarantee that the property cannot be demolished," according to the city, but it does allow the Commission to delay demolition for 180 days while other opportunities for preservation are determined.
The next step in saving the property is a review of the nomination by the L.A. Planning and Use Committee and then the LA City Council.
The designation of the home as a historic site also does not preclude the idea that the home could at some point be relocated to a more central location — one more easily viewable by the public than the current neighborhood in which it sits. Relocation would be a lengthy and costly process, however, and it remains unclear if the home would be able to be relocated.
The property was facing the possibility of destruction after the Department of Building and Safety issued a demolition permit to its current owner, Glory of the Snow Trust on Sept. 5.
Days after it was issued, the L.A. City Council meeting unanimously voted to temporarily suspend said permit amid public outcry.
Glory of the Snow LLC purchased the home in 2017 for $7.25 million, according to The Real Deal, before a trust of the same name bought it for $8.35 million in July 2023. After less than two months, however, they filed to tear it down.
L.A.’s Office of Historic Resources performed various assessments in the weeks following the issuance of the permit to recommend that Monroe’s Spanish-style abode be permanently protected and designated a historic site.
Scott Fortner, a historian, collector, and host of the All Things Marilyn Podcast, has played a key role in saving the house as part of the Monroe Preservation Group, which he says has "worked tirelessly for months researching and documenting the history of Marilyn Monroe's former and final home."
The group has found historical significance in the house well before the blonde bombshell's tenure. "Our efforts and research, which was shared with today's deciding body, concluded that famed historic Los Angeles architect Harbin Hunter not only lived at the home, but he also very likely designed it." The evidence lies in the famous tiles at the front door of the house, which read, "Cursum Perficio," the hunter family motto, which translates to "I will persevere."
Adds Fortner, "Our group, which consists of authors April VeVea, Gary Vitacco-Robles and Elisa Jordan, film producer and director Remi Gangarossa, and historians Kelly Lecroix and I, are thrilled to have participated in the process to have Marilyn’s home be recommended for a Historic Cultural Monument designation by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission today.”
Monroe purchased the 2,624 sq. ft. hacienda for $77,500, shortly after parting ways with her ex-husband, playwright Arthur Miller, in February 1962.
The stucco home was built in 1929 and features four bedrooms, three baths, beamed ceilings, a grassy courtyard, gardens, a swimming pool, and more.
A presentation delivered ahead of the vote explained how, in her short time living there, Monroe spent roughly $51,000 refurbishing and renovating the home. When adjusted for inflation, that comes out to more than $500,000.
In an interview with Life Magazine shortly before her death, Marilyn described the property—specifically an apartment attached to her garage—as "a place for any friends of mine who are in some kind of trouble.” The actress then mused, “maybe they'll want to live here where they won't be bothered till things are OK for them."
Shortly after that home tour, the actress died at the house in August 1962.
She was discovered by her housekeeper, Eunice Murray, after she noticed Monroe's bedroom light was on in the early hours of the morning. A coroner's toxicology report officially listed her cause of death as acute barbiturate poisoning, as she reportedly ingested a lethal amount of Nembutal, which is often used to treat anxiety, and a sedative called chloral hydrate. Her death was ruled an overdose and "probable suicide."
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