NEWS: The Battle to Save Marilyn Monroe’s Los Angeles Home
When Marilyn Monroe moved to Brentwood in 1962, the Los Angeles neighborhood provided the perfect seclusion for the world’s most famous woman.
The four-bedroom Spanish colonial-style house was tucked off a quiet street, with a kidney-shaped pool and towering palm trees. The house was known as “Cursum Perficio,” which in Latin loosely translates to “I end the journey.”
Six months after she moved in, Ms. Monroe died of a drug overdose in her bedroom. She was 36.
Though her time there was short, the Brentwood home has become a quiet monument to her grand life, with fans still leaving flowers at the front gate some 60 years after her death. If local advocates succeed, it will remain that way.
The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Friday to begin a process that would designate the home as a historic and cultural monument, saving it from demolition.
The passage immediately triggered a temporary stay on a demolition permit that the city’s building department had approved just a day before. According to city records, on Sept. 7 the building department approved the demolition of the single-family home, attached garage, pool house and storage. Records also show plans to backfill the existing pool.
The motion to protect the home was introduced by Councilwoman Traci Park, who represents the city’s 11th district, which includes Brentwood. Ms. Park found out about the looming demolition on Sept. 6 after an article in The New York Post was circulated widely among her constituents, she said.
“A lot of people have their own inner Marilyn, and I think why people identify with her and why this figure and this home resonate so deeply here in Los Angeles and beyond is because of who she was,” Ms. Park said on Monday. “I can’t imagine a person or place more worthy of these designations.”
According to real estate records, Glory of Snow LLC sold the property to Glory of Snow Trust in July for $8.35 million.Neither the sellers nor the buyers responded to requests for comment. The city’s building department also did not respond to a request for comment.
The mysterious nature of the transaction only fueled speculation about the new owner’s plans. Carolyn Jordan, the chair of the Brentwood Community Council, a neighborhood volunteer group, said that when word of demolition began to spread, “all hell broke loose.”
“How could someone take down one of the most famous houses on the planet that we have right here in Brentwood?” said Ms. Jordan, who said she fielded dozens of messages from concerned neighbors. “Part of what’s really sad is that the prior owners really revered the fact that it had been Marilyn Monroe’s residence.”
Ms. Jordan said the community group was supposed to receive notice of demolition permits in Brentwood that are under review, but that never happened.
“Best I can tell is this caught everyone off guard,” she said.
The house, at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive, is not visible from the street. But tourists frequently stop by to pay their respects and hold their phones over their heads in hopes of snapping a picture of history. Ms. Jordan said she had never heard of any vandalism or inappropriate activity there.
Built in 1929, on a 2,900-square-foot property, the hacienda was the first and only residence Ms. Monroe owned on her own. She bought the house for $75,000 after her divorce from the playwright Arthur Miller.
The city flagged the house in a 2013 evaluation as “potentially significant” because of its ownership, but a formal designation process did not move forward. A historical designation does not prohibit the building from being demolished, but it does allow the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission to delay it for at least 180 days to allow time to develop a plan to preserve the structure.
Ms. Monroe’s house is on what is known as the Helenas, a unique set of cul-de-sacs, 25 in total, off Carmelina Avenue largely between Sunset and San Vincente Boulevards that Ms. Jordan described as “very secluded and bucolic.”
Ms. Jordan said she hoped the house would be saved in some way, ideally kept in place, or perhaps even by a studio lifting the whole house and preserving it on a movie lot.
“By today’s standards, Marilyn’s home would be considered modest, but there are lots of ways to deal with and preserve the essence of a home without just mowing it down,” Ms. Jordan said.
Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, who run a tour company in Los Angeles and also work to preserve Los Angeles landmarks, including the Monroe house, said they had never seen such swift action when it came to saving a city structure. Ms. Cooper said they hoped an official landmark designation would provide a “more respectful and appropriate treatment.”
Mr. Schave, who visited the house when he was a teenager, remembers being blown away by its majesty.
“I thought, it’s Marilyn Monroe’s house!” he said, adding an expletive.
“It’s the Southern California dream,” Ms. Cooper added.
An application will be filed with the city’s Office of Historic Resources, most likely in the first week of October, Councilwoman Park said. That office will schedule a site visit to assess the property, after which the Cultural Heritage Commission will hold a hearing on Nov. 16 to consider the nomination. They will then offer their recommendations to the full City Council for a vote. The council will have 90 days to take action.