How Marilyn Monroe’s House Became Her ‘Safe Haven’ — And Her Place Of Death

Published January 6, 2021
Updated August 4, 2022

The Spanish-style Colonial Revival house at 12305 5th Helena Drive was the first property Marilyn Monroe ever bought — and her last. She died there just six months after moving in.

Marilyn Monroe House

JGKlein/Wikimedia CommonsThe entrance to Marilyn Monroe’s Spanish-style home in Los Angeles.

Marilyn Monroe’s house at 12305 5th Helena Drive in Los Angeles was the 43rd home the icon had lived in — and the last. Purchased in February 1962, the icon would be found dead in her bedroom there just six months after moving in. The house was still littered with unpacked boxes.

Marilyn Monroe’s home was “a cute little Mexican-style house with eight rooms,” as she once infamously described it. She put down just $650,000 for the property, which most recently sold for over $7 million. It was the first house she bought herself.

Marilyn Monroe House Backyard

Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via Getty ImagesThe backyard and pool at Marilyn Monroe’s Brentwood home as it looked when she lived there.

Hidden in a cul-de-sac in the exclusive Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatrist had suggested she purchase it, saying the star should “put down some roots.”

It was a wise suggestion and Monroe loved her home, which became an extension of herself. As she said in her final interview with LIFE Magazine, “Anybody who likes my house, I am sure I will get along with.”

Marilyn Monroe’s House Was Her Safe Haven

Monroe's House From Above

Getty ImagesAn aerial view of Monroe’s home.

The Spanish Colonial Revival at 12305 5th Helena Drive was built in 1929, when Marilyn Monroe was still known as Norma Jeane Mortenson. The one-story house was an architectural charm and featured a red-tile roof and adobe walls.

Thick gates blocked the house off from the street. A curved driveway led to the front door, which opened into a wide living room with terracotta floors. Beams of wood lined the ceiling and a blue-tiled fireplace anchored the room.

To the left, a sunroom offered views into the backyard, and next to it was a dining room and kitchen. To the right was the master bedroom, and nearby a dressing room offered privacy. Marilyn Monroe’s bedroom featured a fireplace and wide windows that looked out onto tree-filled grounds.

The hacienda sat on over half an acre of property, with a sparkling kidney-shaped swimming pool and a grove of citrus trees. Next to the driveway sat a guesthouse between the main home and the garage.

A tile next to the front door ominously displayed the phrase, “cursum perficio,” which is Latin for “Here ends my journey.”

Monroe Headshot

Frank Powolny/Wikimedia CommonsA 1953 headshot of Marilyn Monroe.

When the house’s original owners moved in, young Norma Jeane was already dreaming of Hollywood. “When I was five,” she told LIFE Magazine in her final interview, “that’s when I started wanting to be an actress… I didn’t like the world around me because it was kind of grim,” Monroe added. “But I loved to play house.”

After she bought the Brentwood house, Monroe transformed it into a home. In her final months, she visited Mexico City and Tijuana, hand-picking decor for the home. On these trips, the star purchased mirrors, textiles, and tiles for her Spanish-style house.

Monroe described her house as a “fortress where I can feel safe from the world.”

The Icon Was Found Dead In Her New Bedroom

Marilyn Monroe's Yard

ZillowThe new owner of Monroe’s bungalow claims it is still haunted by her spirit.

During the only spring she spent at her house, Marilyn Monroe lovingly decorated the property. At the same time, she had also begun shooting Something’s Got to Give with Dean Martin, and sang her sultry rendition of “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy.

Chosen for its privacy, Monroe transformed the house into a calm, secluded retreat from the world. Monroe was private about her house. When a reporter from LIFE visited the star at home, Monroe asked the magazine not to photograph it. “I don’t want everybody to see exactly where I live, what my sofa or my fireplace looks like,” Monroe explained.

Marilyn Monroe's Corpse

Getty ImagesMonroe was found face down in her bed.

It seemed as though things were looking up for the actress. Although she got fired from Something’s Got to Give, the studio rehired her, fully positioning her for a comeback, with a gorgeous Brentwood home to support her.

Yet, days after LIFE put her on the cover, Monroe was found dead in her bedroom by a maid at 4:25 a.m. on Aug. 5, 1962.

Listen above to the History Uncovered podcast, episode 46: The Tragic Death Of Marilyn Monroe, also available on Apple and Spotify.

Marilyn Monroe’s death was as shocking as it was tragic.

Marilyn Monroe Death

E. Murray/Fox Photos/Getty ImagesThe bedroom where Marilyn Monroe died on Aug. 5, 1962.

On the afternoon before her death, the actress called her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson. They talked for an hour because Monroe couldn’t sleep. Greenson recommended going for a drive and maybe visiting the beach to clear her mind.

A few hours after calling Greenson, Monroe’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray, watched the star head into her bedroom. It was the last time anyone saw Monroe alive.

At 3 a.m. the next morning, Murray noticed a light still on in Monroe’s bedroom. When the housekeeper couldn’t get in the bedroom, Murray called Greenson. He drove over and smashed the window next to Monroe’s bed with a poker from the fireplace.

Exterior Marilyn Monroe House

Bettmann/GettyPolice stand in front of Marilyn Monroe’s house. Her dog’s stuffed toys sit on the lawn.

Inside the room, Greenson found Monroe face down on her bed wrapped in a champagne-colored sheet. Greenson saw an empty bottle of pills was on her nightstand and Monroe’s outstretched hand was gripping her telephone.

But Greenson’s first call wasn’t to the police. Instead, he called Dr. Engelberg, the man who had written the prescription for Monroe’s sleeping pills. Engelberg drove over, confirmed Greenson’s suspicion that Monroe was dead, and then called the police.

When the police arrived, they found the Marilyn Monroe house only partly furnished. The actress had only lived in her safe haven for a few months before her death.

A New Life For Marilyn Monroe’s Brentwood Home

Body Of Marilyn Monroe

Keystone/Getty ImagesPolice remove the body of Marilyn Monroe from her Brentwood home.

As swiftly as her haven had been realized it was destroyed. As the LAPD sealed up Marilyn Monroe’s home and carried her body out on a stretcher, her housekeeper carried away the actress’s dog, Moff. His stuffed tiger and lamb were left lying on the lawn.

In the years following her death, 12305 5th Helena Drive has become a landmark for Monroe’s fans. Hill Street Blues actress Veronica Hamel bought the house in the 1970s and director Michael Ritchie later lived there. In 2012, the home sold for $5.1 million, and in 2017 the home sold for $7.25 million.

The house apparently still holds secrets from Monroe’s short time living there. When Hamel remodeled the home, she allegedly uncovered bugging equipment hidden in the walls. But who was watching Marilyn Monroe, and did they know what happened the night she died? The answer remains a mystery today.

Now that you know about the legendary Marilyn Monroe house at 12305 5th Helena Drive, learn about her early life with these little-known Marilyn Monroe facts. Then, check out these candid photos of Marilyn Monroe.

Genevieve Carlton
Genevieve Carlton earned a Ph.D in history from Northwestern University with a focus on early modern Europe and the history of science and medicine before becoming a history professor at the University of Louisville. In addition to scholarly publications with top presses, she has written for Atlas Obscura and Ranker.