“Now that I’ve turned thirty-six, this is a dream come true for me—my having my own home, my own house. I have an apartment in New York City on Sutton Place, and I’m officially a legal resident of New York, but since pictures are still made in Hollywood, that’s where I have to be  for work. I decided it was time for me to buy a house, instead of leasing one all the time… It’s a cute little Mexican-style house with eight rooms, and at least I can say it’s mine—but not alone. I have a partner…The bank! I have a mortgage to pay off… The address is cute, too: 12305 Fifth Helena Drive, Brentwood. And get this, I’m in a cul-de-sac or, as we call it, a dead-end street. It’s small, but I find it rather cozy that way. It’s quiet and peaceful—just what I need right now.”

Latest update – 13 October 2023

Marilyn Monroe’s life was a whirlwind of glamour and fame, but amidst the chaos of Hollywood, she found solace and privacy in her home at 12305 5th Helena Drive in Brentwood, Los Angeles. This picturesque Spanish-style hacienda became an integral part of her legacy and is a symbol of an era gone by. However, as of September 1962, the home is at risk of demolition as the news has broken that the current owners have applied and succeeded in getting permission for its demolition. Here is a history of the home that Marilyn cherished so dearly.

 

BEFORE MARILYN

Built in 1929, 12305 Helena Drive is a stunning example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. The property’s distinct red-tiled roof, white stucco walls, and arched doorways are characteristic of this architectural style.

Before Marilyn Monroe lived there, the property had its own history. Built in the early years of Hollywood, and like many homes in the Brentwood area, it represented the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style that was popular during that era in Los Angeles. While specific historical details about its previous occupants or notable events are not widely documented, the house itself was part of the architectural landscape of Brentwood, a neighbourhood that has long been associated with the entertainment industry and various Hollywood personalities. It’s worth noting that the property’s historical significance became even more pronounced after Marilyn Monroe’s residence there, contributing to its enduring legacy.

While online records might not yield extensive information about the property’s pre-Marilyn era, its age of nearly a century underscores its role as a repository of Hollywood’s illustrious past within its very walls.

  • 1929 – 12305 is built
  • May 1949 – Los Angeles Times advertises the property for sale
  • December 1961 – Los Angeles Times advertises the property for sale

MARILYN’S TIME AT 12305 5TH HELENA DRIVE

Marilyn Monroe purchased the home in February 1962, just six months before her tragic death. It was her desire for privacy and a sense of stability that led her to this charming abode. The house served as a haven away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi and allowed her to enjoy moments of serenity.

During her brief but significant time at 12305 Helena Drive, Marilyn made some personal touches to the house.

She made sure the home reflected her unique style and fitted in with the architecture of the property itself. Decorated with Mexican-style furnishings hand-selected from her trip to Mexico, the interiors of 12305 Helena Drive embodied Marilyn’s personality and charm.

There are a few images of Marilyn Monroe in the home. These iconic shots were captured by Allan Grant in July 1962, intended to accompany an article penned by Richard Meryman in the same month. In these images, Marilyn is gracefully seated upon an opulent Italian-style carved wood corner chair adorned with sumptuous olive green velvet upholstery. This particular chair was one of the star’s cherished possessions, gracing her newly-acquired Brentwood residence. It was sold at Julien’s in 2019 for $81,250. 

Other photographs of the property, taken after her passing, reveal an array of captivating elements. Among them, tapestries drape the walls, dark wood cabinets add an air of sophistication, a chess set invites intellectual pursuits, and the exquisite Mexican tiles provide a rich tapestry of cultural beauty.

 

AFTER MARILYN’S DEATH

Following Marilyn Monroe’s untimely death in August 1962, the fate of her beloved home at 12305 Helena Drive entered a new chapter. The house witnessed a flurry of interest, with several competing purchase offers emerging within a day. In May 1963, the Nunez family became the proprietors of Marilyn’s final home with Dr. Gilbert Nunez also passing away in the property.

The subsequent ownership of the bungalow gets somewhat tricky to understand because of Trusts and Deeds from all directions and multiple real estate websites dating ownership differently However, this is what I have managed to compile to the best of my ability and am happy to edit any mistakes made.

  • September 1963 – Gilbert and Betty Nunez become owners of the home
  • 1980 – The Nunez family sells the property to Alexander Bull
  • 1994 – Alexander Bull sells the home to Michael Ritchie, film director, for $995,000
  • 1996 – Cynthia and Henry Rust buy the hacienda from Ritchie
  • 2007 – Cynthia Rust becomes sole owner of the property
  • 2010 – Cynthia Rust sells to David Weber Trust for $3,850,038
  • 2012 – David Weber Trust sells to William Capps for $5.1 million
  • 2015 – William Capps “gifts” the home to Donna Kaplan
  • 2017 – Donna Kaplan sells to Glory of Snow 1031 LLC $7.25 million
  • 2023 – Grant Deed is made from Glory of Snow 1031 LLC to Glory of Snow Trust

Source: PropertyShark, Julien’s Auctions

DEMOLITION

In September 2023, it was announced that the owners of 12305 Fifth Helena Drive had received approval for its demolition. This news stirred deep emotions of dismay and sorrow among Marilyn Monroe’s admirers worldwide. For them, this house held a special place in their hearts, as it was where Marilyn found solace and where she spent her final moments.

From a moral standpoint, preserving this historic landmark should be a priority. Just as countless homes and culturally significant structures have been safeguarded over the years, 12305 Helena Drive deserves the same protection. It stands as a testament to an era of Hollywood glamour and the memory of an iconic figure whose legacy continues to resonate with people across generations.

VIA @LACONSERVANCY

🚨URGENT!🚨 Hollywood’s iconic “blonde bombshell” Marilyn Monroe left us way too soon, and now her house where she lived—and died in 1962—may also be lost **if we don’t act quickly.** Owners have filed plans to build a new house on the site of Monroe’s 1929 Spanish, hacienda-style home in Brentwood, and it appears clearance for a demolition permit may already be in place. Identified in 2013 by the City’s SurveyLA program as being potentially historic, the house is currently unprotected.

While we are definitely in the 11th hour, please reach out to Councilmember

 

@councilwomanTraciPark(councilmember.park@lacity.org and 213-473-7011) and ask her to *immediately* initiate the Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) process for Monroe’s house at 12305 5th Helena Drive!

If not too late and successful, this could allow the City and residents to consider if Monroe’s house should be protected, spared from demolition, and ultimately designated as an HCM. This action can still allow owners to update and even expand the house if desired but ensure its essential character, and Monroe’s association, is maintained.

PRESERVATION OPTIONS

Naturally, many fans envision the transformation of Marilyn Monroe’s former home into a dedicated Marilyn museum, but this idea presents several significant challenges.

Firstly, establishing such a museum would require finding a capable and dedicated curator or manager. Additionally, assembling a collection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia would be a daunting task, as her belongings have been dispersed among collectors worldwide.

The property’s location compounds these challenges. Situated in a small cul-de-sac within the serene confines of Brentwood, it mirrors the allure of privacy that drew Marilyn and countless other celebrities to live there. Transforming it into a museum would disrupt the tranquillity enjoyed by the surrounding residents, potentially leading to disturbances caused by an influx of hundreds of fans and inadequate parking facilities.

In contrast, iconic landmarks like Graceland and Charlie Chaplin’s Swiss residence, which have successfully become museums, are grand mansions managed by established historical organisations, set in more spacious and accommodating environments. Balancing the preservation of Marilyn’s memory with the practical realities of her former home’s location presents a unique and complex preservation challenge.

A better scenario would involve the property falling into the hands of an owner who values its rich history, content with preserving its character as a bungalow rather than transforming it into a lavish mansion. Such an owner would grasp the profound significance of this place to Marilyn’s fans.

The property’s substantial walls already provide a degree of privacy, shielding it from intrusive gazes. Fans yearn for the preservation of not only Marilyn’s former home but also other historic buildings across Los Angeles, shielding them from the threat of demolition. In this way, the legacy of Marilyn Monroe and the broader cultural heritage of the city can endure, appreciated and safeguarded for generations to come.

9 September 2023: Councilwoman Park has confirmed that the demolition permit has been revoked and demolition is currently halted.